Learning and Memory

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Learning and Memory
Jessica A. Rountree, Brenda Bejar, Lisa Jackson, Derek Delarge PSY340
November 14, 2011
Dr. April Colett

Learning and Memory
On the surface learning and memory are connected easily. When an individual learns to walk, they retain the information in the memory. The learning process is something that happens every day. As human beings we are programmed to learn life lessons, and retain them in our memory. The memory keeps pictures, smells, experiences, and tastes for us to learn how to live our lives. Learning is the experiences we have, and memory stores this information (Pinel, 2009). It is as simple as that. However, researchers have found how the brain functions while retaining memory. A closer look into learning and memory one find’s it is not quite that simple. The brain, although protected by the skull, is a fragile organ. A blood clot, a blow to the head, or drug use can damage the brain enough that learning is stunted, and memory does not exist. For an individual who cannot remember 20 years of their life due to a car accident is going to experience psychological damage as well. It is not just the absence of memory itself, but the fear as well. Learning and memory are something that the majority of individuals take for granted. There are those that can learn, yet not retain memory. Amnesia patients often can retain motor skills, a learned skill, however, cannot recall memories. Memory and learning deficits affect an individual to life’s core. Depending on what type of deficit is occurring learning and memory may not be related. Retaining the ability to walk means learning is still in place, however not knowing what you had for breakfast is memory. Knowing how to eat is a learned response to feeling hungry. The mind works the knowledge presented to it. Whether that knowledge is carried properly thought the process of the brain is a different story. An individual can experience death so many times they learn it is a part of life. However, it is the memory that betrays us. Learned information leads to memories. Long-term potentiation (LTP) shows facilitation of synaptic transmissions following an electrical stimulation at a high frequency. This study was done mostly on rat hippocampus. The hippocampus is where the process of learning and memory take place. During research on rats it was found that the co-occurrence of firing presynaptic and postsynaptic cells must fire at the same time to induce LTP (Pinel, 2009). Hebb’s postulate for learning is the assumption this co-occurrence is physiologically necessary for learning and memory. He states the axon of cell A nears cell B and excites it. This closeness talks part in firing. Growth processes or metabolic changes take place in both cells (Pinel, 2009). Even to the smallest molecule learning and memory are intertwined with one another. Misfires of these cells can cause poor learning and retention. Researchers would not know the extent of the unique relationship between learning and memory if not for the rat experiments. What makes learning possible is also what makes memory possible. The neurons take information to the hippocampus where it is divided, processed and stored. In Pavlov’s conditioning experiment, he learned that a conditioned response can be created from memory (Pinel, 2009). Given the limits on information processing capacity, the specific details encoded and retrieved in memory come at the expense of other details. Comparing the types of details and processes that individuals from one culture prioritize over others offers insight into the type of information given priority in cognition, perhaps reflecting broader cultural values. The properties of memories and the types of memory errors people commit offer a window into the organization of memory. In terms of types of memory errors, if people falsely remember conceptually related, but not phonologically related items, it suggests that the meaning of the information is...
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