What happens in the brain when we learn

Findings could enhance teaching methods and lead to treatments for cognitive problems

It seems to me that we retain a substantial ability to learn with age, but there tends to be interference from things already learned – tendencies towards using classifications already present, rather than creating new ones.
The tendency of brain to use these classification heuristics at ever recursive levels seems to be both our greatest intellectual strength and our greatest weakness. It can be extremely difficult to step outside of an established pattern and create some distinction which is both very close, and sufficiently subtly different to have significant implications further down the chains of association.

It seems that the logical necessity of simplifying infinities down to heuristics we can deal with in useful amounts of time tends to push us towards binaries when time is short, or more graduated approximations if we have the luxury of time. Thus the binaries (Sith Lords) of the dark side are an ever present danger, at all levels of abstraction.

It seems that the fundamental stuff of which we are made has at heart a randomness, constrained within certain bounds of probability, and summed over vast collections those constraints provide amazingly close approximations to causality. At the biochemical level, our neurons seem to operate similarly, with amazing mechanisms operating over quite wide times, that summed together result in a neuron either firing or not.

That we exist seems magical enough. That we are beginning to catch glimmerings of the patterns underlying our existence, and of the levels of competition and cooperation (at differing ratios at different levels) that deliver the existence we experience seems to this observer most magical of all.
The sheer numeric complexity of us, from the Hamiltonians of the subatomic all the way up through the many levels of complexity upon complexity, with their emergent properties and probabilities.

The various attempts at philosophical understanding seen in history seem at once to be far too simplistic, and to have captured something of the ineffable essence of such complexity (and once again I commend Snowden’s Cynefin classification of complexity – in the full context of the above). It seems we contain all aspects of complexity (from the simple to the chaotic), and many infinities, simultaneously; and we can be and are beings of both habit and creativity – depending very much upon context, and the demands or otherwise of the moment.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
This entry was posted in Brain Science and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s