Learning and Memory: The Behavioral and Biological Substrates

By Isidore Gormezano; Edward A. Wasserman | Go to book overview

10
Experience-Dependent Synaptogenesis as a Plausible Memory Mechanism

William T. Greenough Ginger S. Withers Brenda J. Anderson University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This chapter focuses on what might be going on at the relatively simple level of the individual neuron in the mammalian brain during memory formation. One of the things that is becoming increasingly clear is that, at the level of the cell, the brain may not have any very special understanding of a process equivalent to the one we term memory; that is, from the viewpoint of the individual neuron, processes that we define as memory may involve the same mechanisms that are used in other cellular processes that have little to do with what we call memory. One of the most obvious examples of this may be the type of information incorporation that appears to occur during the early development of mammalian sensory and motor systems. For example, the fine tuning of pattern vision requires visual experience in many, if not all, mammals ( Tees, 1986). Although many of the details still remain to be specified, it is clear that a great deal of the shaping of fine perceptual and motor skills, the integration of these capacities, and the acquisition of knowledge of the physical world arise through interaction with the environment in early development. Because of the tendency for many of these phenomena to be limited by critical or sensitive periods in development, they have often been thought of as different from adult memory not only in degree of specificity but also in terms of the proposed mechanisms. At the same time, others have stressed possible similarities between developmental and adult forms of plasticity (e.g., Changeaux & Danchin, 1976; Cotman & Nieto- Sampedro , 1984; Greenough, 1978).

In this chapter, we begin by describing one line of research that we believe is beginning to point to aspects of the learning process that differentiate it from at least some cases of early sensory development and also to indicate aspects of development that do not appear to be present during information storage in later

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