Learning and Memory

Pure Pedantry

Category archives for Learning and Memory

A lot of people have read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. In the book, he gives an example of a group of people forced to estimate the weight of a cow. (This was actually an experiment that geneticist Franics Galton attempted.) When you do this, you find that the accuracy of the average…

Is our bacteria learning?

This is a cool story, but not for the reason the authors are attributing. Researchers at Princeton showed that bacteria can evolve to anticipate future environmental changes. Here is the coverage in Science: Researchers already know that microbes can mount simple responses to changes in their environment, such as acidity fluctuations, by altering their internal…

The Best Way to Study: Practice Tests

I remember when I was studying for Step I of the medical Boards. Step I is the first of three very large tests that you have to take to become a doctor. This first test comprises everything you learn in the first two years of medical school, and it can in theory include the pathology…

In behavioral neuroscience, we use a lot of animal models. We assume that these animal models have features that are the same or similar to features of humans. However, it is always reassuring when someone gets around to proving that this assumption is accurate. Talmi et al., publishing in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that…

NYTimes Science section, why do you make me so mad? Gretchen Reynolds published an article in the Times on cognitive improvements associated with exercise, and I would like to use it to make a point about how science journalism often gets the facts right but the interpretation wrong. It begins with the following incorrect statement:…

We tend to think of memories in the brain once they are consolidated as relatively stable things. For example, you don’t tend to think of any active biochemical process being necessary to maintain long-term memories. This is almost an intuitive conclusion: wouldn’t any active process required for memory maintenance be eventually disrupted if expected to…

Gesticulation improves learning

Vindication at last. I catch a lot of hell because I tend to talk with my hands. However, Susan Wagner Cook for the University of Chicago has shown that when teaching math problems kids who repeat the hand gestures of the teacher are more likely to get the problem right. In other words, practicing gestures…

This is interesting. Researchers at Columbia have established that restricting neurogenesis in the hippocampus improves working memory: New research from Columbia University Medical Center may explain why people who are able to easily and accurately recall historical dates or long-ago events, may have a harder time with word recall or remembering the day’s current events.…

We have been talking about this paper in PNAS around the lab, so I thought I would share. Hassabis et al, publishing in PNAS, have shown that patients with hippocampal damage lack the ability to imagine novel situations. This is a truly interesting finding, but it isn’t why I want to talk about this paper.…

More Evidence of LTP in vivo

I wrote earlier this week about evidence from electrode arrays that LTP occurs in vivo in behaving rats (“Rats, you behave!”). The paper showed that if you use an avoidance learning paradigm you can detect LTP in the hippocampus after one trial. The paper does not, however, necessarily prove that this LTP is actually necessary…