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5 - Cellular and molecular mechanisms of associative and nonassociative learning

from Section A1 - Cellular and molecular mechanisms of neural plasticity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2012

John H. Byrne
Affiliation:
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX, USA
Diasinou Fioravante
Affiliation:
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX, USA
Evangelos G. Antzoulatos
Affiliation:
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX, USA
Michael Selzer
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
Stephanie Clarke
Affiliation:
Université de Lausanne, Switzerland
Leonardo Cohen
Affiliation:
National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland
Pamela Duncan
Affiliation:
University of Florida
Fred Gage
Affiliation:
Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego
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Summary

Introduction

All animals have the capacity to adapt to environmental changes by modifying their behaviors. The experience-dependent modification of behavior is a manifestation of learning (which generally refers to the process of acquiring new information), whereas memory is the retention of learning over time. The neural mechanisms that contribute to the adaptation of an organism to environmental changes through learning are also likely to contribute to the adaptation of the organism to physical changes (e.g., trauma) through repair and rehabilitation. Some molecular mechanisms, such as neurotrophin signaling, second messenger cascades, transcription factor-mediated gene regulation, structural remodeling and growth, are likely sites of convergence between memory, development, and rehabilitation. Therefore, delineating the mechanisms that govern learning and memory could facilitate both the understanding of mechanisms that govern repair and rehabilitation, and the development of therapeutic pharmacological agents.

Four elementary forms of learning: habituation, sensitization, classical, and operant conditioning

Learning can be distinguished depending on whether it is associative or nonassociative. Nonassociative forms of learning include habituation and sensitization. Habituation is defined as the gradual waning of a behavioral response to a weak or moderate stimulus that is presented repeatedly. Following habituation, the response may be restored to its initial state either passively with time (i.e., spontaneous recovery), or with the presentation of a novel stimulus (i.e., dishabituation).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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