ERIC Number: EJ1078987
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Nov
Abstractor: As Provided
Associative Learning and Sensory Neuroplasticity: How Does It Happen and What Is It Good For?
McGann, John P.
Learning & Memory, v22 n11 p567-576 Nov 2015
Historically, the body's sensory systems have been presumed to provide the brain with raw information about the external environment, which the brain must interpret to select a behavioral response. Consequently, studies of the neurobiology of learning and memory have focused on circuitry that interfaces between sensory inputs and behavioral outputs, such as the amygdala and cerebellum. However, evidence is accumulating that some forms of learning can in fact drive stimulus-specific changes very early in sensory systems, including not only primary sensory cortices but also precortical structures and even the peripheral sensory organs themselves. This review synthesizes evidence across sensory modalities to report emerging themes, including the systems' flexibility to emphasize different aspects of a sensory stimulus depending on its predictive features and ability of different forms of learning to produce similar plasticity in sensory structures. Potential functions of this learning-induced neuroplasticity are discussed in relation to the challenges faced by sensory systems in changing environments, and evidence for absolute changes in sensory ability is considered. We also emphasize that this plasticity may serve important nonsensory functions, including balancing metabolic load, regulating attentional focus, and facilitating downstream neuroplasticity.
Descriptors: Associative Learning, Sensory Experience, Brain, Perception, Stimuli, Neurological Organization
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Information Analyses; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
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