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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 7 Mar 2013, 08:55

Learning%2520and%2520memory.JPG

Fig. 1. Looks a like a good read

I'm starting to read papers on neuroscience that result on my starting to use my hands and fingers as I read, even reading and re-reading phrases and sentences. What is going on here?

If I understand it correctly there is, because of the complexity of connections between neurones, a relationship with many parts of the brain simultaneously, some common to us all, some, amongst the millions of links, unique to us. Each neuron is connected to 10,000 others. To form a memory some 15 parts of the brain are involved. It is situated, much of it we are not aware of. Come to think of it, while I was concentrating I got cramp in my bum and right thigh perched as I am on a hard kitchen chair, and the lingering after taste of the cup of coffee I drank 45 minutes ago. I can hear the kitchen clock ticking - though most of the time it is silent (to my mind), and the dog just sighed.

Does it matter that my fingers are tapping away at a keyboard?

Though second-nature, touch-typing it still occupies my arms and hands and fingers which may otherwise be animated were I talking. I am talking, in my head. The stream of consciousness is almost audible.

What would happen where I to use a voice recorder and speak my thoughts instead?

By engaging my limbs and voice would my thinking process improve and would the creation of something to remember be all the stronger.

I'm getting pins and needles/cramp in my right leg. Aaaaaaaaaaagh! Party over.

The question posed is often 'what's going on in there?' refering to the brain. Should the question simpley be 'what's going on?'

Learning & Memory

My eyesight is shifting. In the space of six months of moved to reading glasses. Now my normal glasses are no good either for reading or distance. Contacts are no use either. As a consequence I'm getting new glasses for middle distance and driving. The solution with the contact lenses is more intriguing.

To correct for astigmatism and near or short sightedness I am going to have a one lens in one eye to deal with the astigmatism and a different lens to deal with the short sightedness in the other. My mind will take the information from both and ... eventually, create something that is sharp close up and at a distance. This has me thinking about what it is that we see, NOT a movie or video playing out on our retina, but rather an assemblage of meaning and associations formed in the brain.

I will try these lenses and hang around, wander the shops, then return. I am advised that I may feel and appear drunk. I can understand why. I could well describe being drunk as trying to navigate down a path with a microscope in one hand and a telescope in the other while looking through both. I feel nauseous just thinking about it.

So 'stuff' is going on in the brain. These days the activity resulting in the brain finguring something out can, in some instance and to some degree, be seen. Might I have an fMRI scan before the appointment with the optician? Might I then have a series of further scans to follow this 're-wiring' process.

I need to be careful here, the wrong metaphor, however much it helps with understanding may also lead to misunderstanding. Our brain is organic, there are electro-chemical processes going on, but if I am correct there is no 're-wiring' as such, the connections have largely existed since birth and are simply activated and reinforced?

Any neuroscientists out there willing to engage with a lay person?

What would observing this process of unconscious learning tells us about the process of learning? And is it that unconscious if am I am aware of the sensations that have to be overcome to set me right?

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