[Neuroscience] Re: motor programs in the brain

Glen M. Sizemore via neur-sci%40net.bio.net (by gmsizemore2 from yahoo.com)
Wed Aug 8 04:03:28 EST 2007

"r norman" <r_s_norman from _comcast.net> wrote in message 
news:c7rhb3lj8jots008t56u1m63lh281iit2h from 4ax.com...
> On Tue, 07 Aug 2007 14:59:13 -0700, "rscan from nycap.rr.com"
> <rscan from nycap.rr.com> wrote:
>>On Aug 6, 8:48 pm, r norman <r_s_norman from _comcast.net> wrote:
>>> However you seem to swing the pendulum far too much in
>>> denying any influence of learning, a process that can easily modify or
>>> modulate genetically determined circuits.  Why not go for the middle
>>> ground and say that genetically programmed patterns, as modified by
>>> conditioning and learning, underlie a lot of vertebrate and mammalian
>>> and primate and hominoid (and human) activity.  Nonetheless, you also
>>> do have to concede that there is also a separate enormous pattern of
>>> behavior especially in the latter group of the above mentioned animals
>>> that is essentially completely learned.  Even something like bird song
>>> varies tremendously in the relative significance of genetic
>>> programming and learning.
>>I would strike "learning" from my vocabulary. I think "maturation" a
>>better word to describe the process of axonal growth, synaptic
>>strengthening and weakening, new synaptic formation, synaptic
>>sloughing, and programmed neural death that follows the rules
>>established by the genome to adjust the motor acts of the organism to
>>the environment. "Maturation" includes the concept of a window during
>>which certain of these adaptations are emphasized, or even possible.
>>One thinks of binocular vision in the primate as an example. The
>>binocular window closes at six (?) in man, forever.
>>Let it be "maturation".
> Maturation indeed would be a suitable word for the very limited set of
> processes you describe " that follows the rules
> established by the genome".  However if you do insist on striking out
> "learning", then perhaps you should eliminate bionet.neuroscience from
> your cross posting list.  I'll let the ai, cognitive science, and
> philosophers fight it out, but learning is a rather well established
> neurobiological phenomenon that has perhaps more than just a little to
> do with human behavior.

As I have told Scanlon (in several different ways), his views are consistent 
with what is known about so-called "emitted" behavior (behavior that is not 
elicited on the pattern of the reflex), but that is as far as it goes. It 
should be well known that some behavior is spontaneous in the sense 
described above, and the probability of the behavior can be altered by its 
consequences. That the basal ganglia are critical to such response classes 
is also clear. That pretty much sums up his position as far as it goes. His 
ridiculous notion that anything that doesn't directly mention nervous system 
activity (i.e., behavioral definitions of habituation, classical 
conditioning, operant conditioning) is to be relegated to the "soul" is 
insipid. The notion that thinking is merely the nervous activity that 
intervenes between some antecedent stimulus and some response is equally 
insipid. Unfortunately, when it comes to mainstream psychology and the 
fields it has corrupted (like most of neurobiology) his inanity is not rare. 
Other than that I don't have any feelings on the subject one way or the 
other. :)

BTW, there have not been many that have taken "spontaneity" seriously. Curt 
Richter was one of the first (especially odd since his graduate advisor was 
JB Watson), followed by Skinner who wrote a paper on "spontaneous behavior" 
(around 1932, I think) even while he was still calling operant behavior a 
type of reflex. Guys like Victor Hamburger came later, but they were 
responsible for the notion gaining more popularity in biology - eventually 
leading to the notion of the CPG.


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