the liver and the brain

r norman rsn_ at _comcast.net
Fri Sep 3 12:15:18 EST 2004

On 3 Sep 2004 09:53:44 -0700, feedbackdroids at yahoo.com (dan michaels)

>Yes, it might be interesting to take a look at what is known regards
>precocial animals, even if not ungulates. My root question is ... how
>hardwired are the sensory systems of such animals at birth, vs how
>much real-time learning regards sensory/perception takes place after
>From a natural selection viewpoint, it doesn't pay for the young
>ungulate [for instance] to have to devote months to learning to
>recognize a predator. An animal which can hide in a den or nest while
>learning+development takes place doesn't face the same survival
>pressures as an animal born on the savannah in full view of a lion.

Let's drop the ungulate issue. There is a much more serious problem at
work.  Look at altricial animals, those who are incapable of
performing complex behavioral tasks at birth whether involving sensory
reception and object recognition or motor performance or some
integration of the two.

The question is:  how much of the improvement of performance after
birth is due simply to the continued development and maturation of the
nervous system, that is, to the further elaboration of the genetic
program that was left incomplete at birth, and how much to actual
learning and experience?  My guess is that for many truly altricial
animals both aspects are important and it is a very difficult
experimental question to sort out which component is more important.
More likely, in many mammals (especially primates and humans) the
genetic program is preconfigured to require learning as an integral

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