Collected Works



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Memory and Learning

It known that for simple types of learning, the medulla is enough for the task, but in more complex learning the subcortex acts, and for large areas of storage, the cortex. Learning is understood as conditioning in the sense that, under certain repetitive conditions., the animal or man responds in the way it is being conditioned or taught to. In the case of man this is not so simple, because of the human being’s complex mechanisms of understanding and comprehension. But in any case, learning something requires the reiteration of the mnemic imprint so that it can later arise as a response. In the processes of memory and learning there are different cases, such as the deciphering of signals to retain the concept, or the association with similar, contiguous or contrasted images; the simple motor reflexes that are repeated and associated to others, with all of these forms allowing for numerous combinations. The basic mechanics is: to relate an unconditioned reflex (hunger, for example) with a conditioning stimulus (light, for example), in such a way that, upon relating an artificial stimulus, there is a conditioned response. In this simple task, which can grow in complexity, the brevity or reiteration of the conditioning, the insistence that leads to saturation or blockage., is important. When the reflexes are directed at something specific, we speak of “discriminated reflexes;” when they are conditioned for speedy response, “immediate reflexes;” and when conditioned for a slow response, “retarded reflexes.”

It is known that the conditioning is more effective when there is a reward, or when there is an alternative of reward-punishment, pleasure-displeasure. There is an “elusive reflex” which leads to the avoidance of unpleasant situations and a state of alert or of vigilance which can be considered an “orientation reflex.” When the conditioning is aimed not only at responding, but also at operating in the world, we refer to the “Operative reflex.” In general, habituation and contradictory stimuli cause the reflex response to weaken. Originally it was thought that the cortex was at the base of the reflexes; but later it was seen that what was acting was the great base of the sub-cortical, thalamic and infrathalamic structure (observations with EEG). Electroencephalographic experiments also showed how, in the presence of an unknown object, there was detection of secondary evoked responses. This made the inference possible, with evidence in memory as well, of the constant structuring activity of the consciousness. The relationship between learning and vigil is fundamental for complex recordings, but it is variable in other aspects, as for example: A sudden memory can awaken a sleeping person, or a stimulus that would automatically be recognized in vigil is not recognized in semisleep. Abrupt sensory data can awaken a sleeping person, but so can the disappearance of habitual stimuli, or the noticeableness of one particular stimulus among others. These variable relationships have led to the thought of the existence of an information “analyzer” located in the area of the cortex, so as to make all the appropriate distinctions. Such an “analyzer” would be a factor of importance in the psychism’s coordination.




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