ART & ORGANISM
DEEP ETHOLOGY of LEARNING
We LEARN when STIMULI from internal or external sensors enter the nervous system:. Whatever their source, energy is transduced to a the electrochemical forms the nervous system can manage. Beginning with the sense organ itself its information may (or may not) move through successive layers (or aggregates of cells), becoming a unit of perception as it proceeds — we can call these PERCEPTS. These move more deeply into the nervous system (unless ignored or blocked) and are combined with collateral and past (stored) information to become CONCEPTS. These are the stuff of thought, managed by cognitive processes, and may then enter consciousness or be retained in preconsciousness if the nervous system finds them of too little interest to evoke a richer form of consciousness.
Excellent statement of the basic neurophysiology of changes in behavior as a result of positive experience:
“According to Thorndike’s law of effect (1), actions that lead to reinforcements are repeated more frequently (2). Through repeated attempts, actions are shaped to more directly and reliably achieve reinforcement (3, 4), a process accompanied by the refinement of behavior-specific neural ensembles and activity patterns in motor cortices (5–9). Learning occurs because neural patterns initiating actions that lead to reinforcement are reentered more often, as supported by neural activity operant conditioning experiments (10–15).
Reinforcement is thought to rely on the activity of midbrain dopamine neurons. When animals receive reward, dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) produce a spike burst that encodes the difference between the animal’s expected and received rewards (16). This reward-prediction error signal is useful for optimizing reward-seeking behavior (17, 18). Indeed, phasic VTA activity constitutes a neural basis of reinforcement, as animals shape their behavior to receive electrical (19, 20) as well as optogenetic (21, 22) VTA self-stimulation.” (Athalye et al. 2018)[i] See the complete article for further details about how this principle is represented in neurons: Evidence for a Neural Law of Effect.
[MUCH research and practice centered on behaviorism, The school of psychology that was founded on the work of Edward Thorndike and John Watson, BUT although much is now viewed as misguided or misinterpreted or just plain useless, the central, deep insight is well preserved. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater; In this, behaviorism and its current disrepute recalls the challenges to Freud (who’s basic or core insight (the subconscious) is undiminished or Einstein.]
[i] Evidence for a neural law of effect. Vivek R. Athalye, Fernando J. Santos, Jose M. Carmena, Rui M. Costa (2018) Science 02 Mar 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6379, pp. 1024-1029 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao6058 Article Figures & Data Info & Metrics eLetters PDF
[ii] Evidence for a neural law of effect. Vivek R. Athalye, Fernando J. Santos, Jose M. Carmena, Rui M. Costa (2018) Science 02 Mar 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6379, pp. 1024-1029 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao6058 Article Figures & Data Info & Metrics eLetters PDF “Our results provide causal evidence for a neural law of effect, describing how the brain selects and shapes neural activity patterns through neural reinforcement. As Skinner noted, selection by consequence is a mechanism driving the evolution of living things, from species to societies to behavior (44). Our results help uncover how selection by consequence operates on neural activity in the brain (45).” [see original paper for references identified in excerpts above]