Neurophysiology and Learning

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Neurophysiology and Learning
September , 2010

For the survival and progression of life as we know it, humans and non humans must rely on the fundamental aspects of learning. Learning is all around us, we experience it in our everyday lives, sometimes without even being aware of it. Theories of learning were introduced centuries ago, and being so important and of much significance in Psychology, they are continuously studied, revised and improved. A popular branch of the study of learning, Neurophysiology, encompasses how body and brain activities are synchronized and complement each other in order to bring about learning. In a great attempt to uncover the many dimensions of learning, psychologists studied profusely what the mind might be capable of. Their main desire was to separate mind and body, with the hopes of understanding how these two elements complemented each other (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005). Rene Descartes, a theorist, performed a study in the areas of physiology and neuroscience. He wanted to understand why it was that despite having two separate eyes, organisms are only able to see one object in their field of vision. Descartes believed it was the “physiological unification of the binocular stimulation in the optic chiasma” (Harftfield, 1998, p 389). It was in this study the he concluded that the stimuli found in this optic chiasma yielded to the different sides of the brain. Descartes’ research led to the study of the physiological nature of the mind and body. Focusing all exercises on the body’s nervous system, Sir Charles Sherrington became a great contributor to Neurophysiology in its early stages of study. His work on the brain’s neuron processes unveiled how certain areas of the brain relate and work with each other to endorse the process of learning, the unearthing of “the anatomical concepts of the neuron and synapse” (Eccles, J., 1957, p 218). Sherrington’s achievements led to new advances in the field of neurophysiology. Without the initial doubt and wonder of how the mind and body work separately and together, theorists, scientists, psychologists, and even philosophers would have not pursued the study of neuroscience and physiology that analyzed earlier beliefs of human behavior, brain function, and the nervous system. Viewed as a new branch of psychology, and perhaps, a new science, Neurophysiology has opened the door to understanding the relationship between mind and body, which brings about the neuroscientific research promoting the progression and survival of the human species (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005). The study of neurophysiology is linked to the theories of learning in more ways than one. How organisms relate to their environment and are able to carry out learning processes are basically what neurophysiology attempts to explain. There are internal and external factors, as well as biological and environmental ones that may profoundly affect how organisms learn and apply such knowledge. A famous neuroscientist popularly represented in the study of learning is Donald Olding Hebb. After much observation and study of the human brain, Hebb concluded the following: 1. The brain does not act as a simple switchboard, as the behaviorists and associationists had assumed. If it did, destroying large amounts of brain tissue from the frontal lobes would have been more disruptive. 2. Intelligence comes from experience and, therefore, is not genetically determined. 3. Childhood experiences are more important in determining intelligence than adult experiences (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005, p 362). Hi first observation was meant to be taken as literally as it sounds. The brain, as he examined, is an extraordinary organ that is able to sustain various atrocities without necessarily losing all functions. Hebb confirmed his belief that it was through experience that we gained intelligence, that organisms actually learned. Organisms are not born intelligent, they learn through sensory events, through...
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