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. . 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 trial and error, among many other ways.
And lastly, Hebb concluded through more experimenting and observation that childhood experiences are more important than adult experiences. Some early childhood learning cannot be undone as an adult. Children placed in enriched environments demonstrate a higher intelligence than those in restricted environments (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005). Therefore, it is extremely important to study and debate what are the best policies for the educational environment. Is it best to include every possible child into the learning system? Or will that damage the learning process of those advanced students?
These questions have been debated for many years and unfortunately, there is no possibility of including all children into the same learning environment without holding back those at a more advanced level. Hebb’s work in neurophysiology paved the way for more research on the environmental effects of learning theories. Since the study of neurophysiology pairs the brain’s messages transmitted to the body to attain a physical behavior, an acute link is born. An organism’s brain reactions and bodily functions are controlled by the central nervous system, including biological needs, such as having to attend to the washroom.
Not all nervous systems are alike, some react to certain stimuli while others remain oblivious to it (McCormick, Connors, Lighthall, Prince, 1985). This may explain why certain students are faster learners than others. It is incorrect to believe that student who does not respond as quickly as his classmate is plain lazy or dumb. Why this occurs is what makes individuals unique to the environment. The a principal focal point in neurophysiology is the central nervous system, arranging the transmission of brain’s messages to all parts of an organism’s body.
These neural events, or chemical messages, are called neurotransmitters, and are responsible for all brain function (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005). In turn, the nervous system is accountable for all interactions among the brain and the physical body. Without the central nervous system, organisms would lack the capacity to learn and prosper. The brain’s neurotransmitters are vital not only human behavior, but to neurophysiology entirely. This explains why some organisms are quicker to react and understand than other. Their neurotransmitters work at a much faster pace and therefore appear to be smarter and even more enthusiastic.
Interestingly enough, the conscious and the body correlate so as it integrate the bodily and cerebral processes to happen (Carlson, 2005). An organism’s reaction to the surrounding environment as well as the adjustment to the continuous changes in such environment relies on various aspects. When neurons excite each other in order to communicate, is quite possibly how scientists discovered the way the nervous system is able to control physical behavior (Carlson, 2005). It is through this important communication process that neurons enable the brain to “gather sensory information, make plans, and initiate behaviors” (Carlson, 2005, p 48).
The communication between the mind (central nervous system) and the body allow for all organisms to absorb information, process it and continuously apply in every day. Hence, neural communication commences the process of learning. The nature of fear has evolved humans to distinguish the stimulating factors that occur in a potentially dangerous place. People (and many animals as well) learn to familiarize these factors and in turn act according to what they know they should do, based on prior experiences (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005).
Thus, organisms learn through the nature of fear, when and how to avoid similar circumstances. Fear presents itself in all sort of ways and forms. A child or teenager, for example, may associate bad grades with a spanking, a tedious lecture or punishment. They will in turn fear bad grades and study in order to achieve high marks. Sensing fear will most likely send organisms into survival mode and what one knows about the situation one is in will be used to either avoid or deal with the fearful circumstance. Fear and learning are interconnected as part of the survival mode most organisms are born with. As Neil R.
Carlson once wrote, “learning produces changes in the way we perceive, act, think, and feel” (Carlson, 2005, p 361), creating the process of learning an infinite experience. Motor learning, for example, is one of many central learning processes, involving adjustments in the neural circuits that are in charge of the body’s actions. Still, sensory events and stimuli are what conduct motor learning (Carlson, 2005). The most comprehensive form of learning, associated with the nervous system, the neural communication and behavioral reaction to stimuli is perhaps relational learning (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005).
As a result, the brain and the central nervous system become fundamental approaches of behavior and learning in a person. Any type of obstruction or injury to either of these areas can and most likely will greatly affect motor skills and possibly alter human behavior as well as learning. Just as seen on TV, hideous car accidents may send a person to physical rehabilitation. How much patience, persistence, perseverance and effort the person puts in may act as the overall difference in returning to as much normality as the rehabilitation allows.
Therefore, the importance of discovering new ways to potentially correct or undo any damage to the brain or the central nervous system is vital for the survival of a human in critical condition. In order for behavior to occur, neurons need to communicate and convey messages. Nonetheless, objects seen in the environment where an individual is found, has a an arousing affect that leads to the formation of cell assemblies (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005). Hebb explained how such phase sequences are continuously changed by what we observe and identify.
So, neurotransmitters fuel different learning and behavioral patterns predisposed by our surroundings, and our surroundings in turn have an effect on neural function. Hebb’s theory culminates the idea that learning is an internal and external process in relation to the environment we are in. Equally, the circumstances humans might find themselves in are ever-changing, and learning becomes an intricate process that should never ceases to exist. What we learn today may be the ticket for a better tomorrow.
How we apply what we know, what we have learned, both inside and out of the classroom and work place will be the difference between a mediocre life and great success. Because the environment changes constantly, humans need to change along with it. How we adapt to these changes is part of the learning process. If we know wearing a warm jacket, gloves and a wool hat will keep us from getting cold, but we choose to wear shorts and a t-shirt, the human race would cease to exist due to lack of change. Nowadays, we have all sorts of information that after much research and experimentation, guide us to a brighter future.
Nonetheless, the importance of continued study is perhaps the only way we can guarantee survival. A particularly interesting concept brought about decades ago, which has evoked much research and exciting discoveries is that of dichotomania, which is “the attempt to find [bilaterality]…and explain their existence in terms of how the cerebral hemispheres process information” (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005, p 391). The strong belief the each half of the brain functions differently has been a topic of debate and thus of much research as well.
If there was even a slight possibility that a certain side of the brain was more important that the other, could a person working that side of brain more than the other be more intelligent than someone working the less important side? How we define important and intelligent makes all the difference here. Some individuals might be born with the tendency to work one side more that the other, true, but what we do with what we know is what makes the difference. After much experimental research on brain function, scientists came to discover the various aspects found in the two halves of the brain.
However, despite these findings, it is incorrect to assume that any half of the brain functions as a whole brain in itself. The following table “reflect[s] the two kinds of hemispheric intelligence” (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005, p 391): Left Hemisphere Intelligent Convergent Realistic Intellectual Discrete Directed Rational Historical Analytical Successive Objective Atomistic Right Hemisphere Intuition Divergent Impulsive Sensuous Continuous Free Intuitive Timeless Holistic Simultaneous Subjective Gross The analytical, left hemisphere dominates the learning of a new language, as well as speech and writing.
The right hemisphere, on the other hand, governs the constructing, touching, feeling aspects of the human being. However, both halves “perceive, learn and process in the same manner” (Hergenhahn, Olson, 2005, p 392). A free spirited bohemian clearly exercises his right hemisphere more than his left. Just like an studious lawyer exercise his left hemisphere over his right. Both individuals are perceived as different in a rational and irrational sense, nevertheless, both have seen, felt, touched, smelled, learned, perceived, experience, using the same halves of he brain. The lawyer needed to achieve high grades in order to get through law school, and continuously study throughout his competitive career. As a free spirited bohemian, all kinds of art (music, photography, painting, etc) may be of interest and his innate talent is what might make him as successful as the lawyer. How they learn may slightly differ, how and what they learn best differs immensely and makes them unique. The continuous study of neurophysiology has and will lead many more scientists to research and discover new findings in the clinical realm.
Such discoveries are fundamental to the progression and survival of the human body. How much do we really know about the human brain and the nervous system? There are millions of questions still unanswered about how the brain works and how we can achieve higher aptitudes, if we only knew more about how it all works inside our heads. Psychologists, scientists, theorists, among many others, have vast resources unknown to man until several decades ago. The internet for example, stores more information than any library in the world, hence being an essential tool to any researcher.
Introducing the central nervous system to a clinical setting allows for doctors all over the world to study our bodies under a microscope. Going into a hospital or clinic for an exam and getting your results within a few weeks is the common norm. The clinical settings permits doctors to properly diagnose patients or clients with all kinds of diseases and disorders that would have been rather impossible without neurophysiology. Chemical imbalances are so popular nowadays because of the great amount of research in the area. Thirty years ago, an student having problems concentrating was probably flunked without hesitation.
Such an action is no longer necessary, having discovered the amount of disorders that cause the student to lose or lack the ability to focus on a certain subject. The learning process has since thrived and expanded the universal understanding and knowledge of the mind and body. With all past and present discoveries in neurophysiology, humanity has placed in the important role of continuously researching more medical advancements that will aid the survival of our species. As long as neurophysiology is considered and rendered the appropriate focus in psychology and clinical research, these two will continue their everlasting marriage.
Irving Zucker expressed how “the society’s future and indeed the discipline of physiology depend critically on our ability to adapt, change and grow” (Zucker, 2008, p 3). Will we allow ourselves the chance to study new material and perhaps discover new cures? Is giving up or letting go of a theory or ideal that has yet to be confirmed, the right path to take? These questions can only be answered with proper attention and much consideration. But it is our responsibility as the strongest and most destructive species on the planet, to conserve ourselves and our environment.
How we adapt to our ever-changing environment will result in the survival or abomination of humanity. Scientists have learned, through experimental procedures many decades ago, that the study and understanding of neural brain function is what thrusts neurophysiology into the future. The goal to be achieved here is the permanent study of abnormal formations in the central nervous system as well as the brain. To continuously study the photos in the mother’s womb to determine if any such abnormalities have formed. Detecting such atrocities in order to treat newborns decrease the amount of infant mortality.
Although clinicians are still far away from being able to treat an unborn child’s weak heart, deprived lung, or a weakening nervous system, such miracles will happen someday. The field of technology excels every single day. How someone’s eyesight can be corrected in a couple of hours used to be something one could only wish for many years ago. The intense curiosity of how our brain and central nervous system worked together for the individual to perceive and behave in its environment led the commencement of neurophysiology.
After much experimental research and study of physiology en neuroscience, it was discovered that the mind and body coexist and influence learning as a ever-lasting process. Neurophysiology has become an important and influential part of the study of psychology and past as well as present learning theories and continuous to do so because of it encompasses