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Chapter 8.2: Skill Memory- Brain Substrates
Terms in this set (56)
what parts of the body play a critical role in the performance of perceptual-motor skills by controlling and coordinating movements?
the spinal cord and brainstem
the core elements of skill learning seem to depend on what three areas of the brain?
the basal ganglia, the cerebral cortex, and the cerebellum
what is the basal ganglia?
it is a collection of ganglia (clusters of neurons) that lie at the base of the forebrain (the most prominent part of the human brain), which receives large numbers of inputs from cortical neurons
where do most cortical areas send their inputs?
to the basal ganglia, providing it with information about what sensory stimuli the person is experiencing
many of the cortical inputs sent to the basal ganglia are initially processed by what?
they are initially processed by the dorsal striatum, a subregion of the basal ganglia that plays an important role in operant conditioning
where does the basal ganglia mainly send output to?
the thalamus (affecting interactions between neurons in the thalamus and motor cortex) and to the brainstem (influencing signals sent to the spinal cord)
what is an example of how the basal ganglia are important for controlling the velocity, direction, and amplitude of movements, as well as the preparation for movement?
Suppose you are performing the rotary pursuit task. You need to move your arm in a circle at a velocity matching that of the rotating target. In this task, your basal ganglia uses information from your visual system about the movements of your arm, the target, your arm, as well as input from the somatosensory system about the position of your arm, to help control the direction and velocity of your arm movements.
disruption of the activity in the basal ganglia impairs skill learning, but what does it not seem to affect?
it does not affect the formation and recall of memories for events and facts
what happens when rats with hippocampal damage try to learn to navigate the radial maze?
they struggle to remember certain aspects of past events, such as which arms they have already visited
what happens when rats with basal ganglia damage try to navigate the radial maze?
they learn this task as easily as rats with no brain damage
what does it mean when rats with basal ganglia damage can complete the radial maze task without problems?
this means that basal ganglia damage does not disrupt rats' memories for events, nor does it prevent them from performing the skills necessary to find food in a radial maze
if the radial maze was modified to where food was only put in arms that were illuminated, what would happen to rats with hippocampal damage completing this task?
rats with hippocampal damage can learn this version of the task because they only need to associate light with food, which does not require keeping track of the arms they've already visited
if the radial maze was modified to where food was only put in arms that were illuminated, what would happen to rats with basal ganglia damage completing this task?
rats with basal ganglia damage have difficulty learning this "simpler" version of the task because they continue to search nonilluminated arms even through they never find food in those arms. This means their basal ganglia damage is preventing them from learning the perceptual-motor skill of avoiding dark arms and focusing on illuminated ones
what happens to rats with hippocampal damage that try to complete the Morris water maze test?
they have severe difficulties learning this standard task but have no problem learning the task if the platform is visible at the surface of the water
what happens to rats with basal ganglia damage that try to complete the Morris water maze test?
they can learn to swim to the location of the platform whether it is visible or not, suggesting that basal ganglia damage does not affect a rat's ability to learn this task
researchers believe that what part of the brain is particularly important in perceptual-motor learning that involves generating motor responses based on specific environmental cues?
the basal ganglia
what is an example of how enhanced basal ganglia function may facilitate skill learning?
for example, researchers found that individuals with larger basal ganglia were the quickest to improve at the video game Space Fortress
experimenters used a T-maze to examine the neural activity in the basal ganglia during learning. how did this experiment work?
Experimenters trained rats to turn right or left in a T-shaped maze in response to a sound cue that the rats hear just before reaching the intersection where the must turn. A researcher releases the rat, then a computer plays a specific sound instructing the rat to make a right turn. If the rat turns to the right, it is given food. With practice, rats learn to do this every time. Researchers implant electrodes in rats before training to record how neurons in the basal ganglia fire as they do this.
what are the four basic patterns of neural activity in the basal ganglia when the rats complete the T maze?
1) some neurons fired most at the start of a trial, when the rat was first released into the maze
2) some fired most when the instructional sound was broadcast
3) some responded strongly when the rat turned left or right
4) some fired at the end of a trial, when the rat received food
we know that the basal ganglia contributes to learning of perceptual-motor skills by the results of the T-maze neural activity, but does the basal ganglia also contribute to cognitive skill learning?
what is an example of an experiment that showed a time where the basal ganglia are active when participants learn cognitive skills?
In one experiment, participants learned to perform a classification task in which a computer presented them with sets of cards and then instructed them to guess what the weather would be, based on the patterns displayed on the cards. Each card showed a unique pattern of colored shapes. Some patterns appeared when rain was likely, others when sunny. As each card was presented, participants had to predict either sunny or rainy. The task may have seemed like reading tarot cards, but the participants improved with practice by gradually learning which cards tended to predict certain types of weather.
what is an example of how it is possible for damage to the basal ganglia to lead to performance changes that impair learning processes in other brain regions?
if you can't control how your arms are moving, you will have difficulty learning how to juggle.
what happens to regions of the cerebral cortex involved in performing a particular skill when that skill is practiced?
the region of the cerebral cortex connected to the sensory area that skill takes place in expands
what is an example of a neuroimaging study that revealed the expansion of the cerebral cortex from practicing a specific skill?
brain-imaging studies of professional violinists showed that the cortical activation evoked in the somatosensory cortex during use of the fingers that control note sequences was more extensive than in non-violinists
what is musician's dystonia?
a disorder in which extensive practice playing an instrument can lead to a reduction or loss of motor control. It is believed that this loss of control reflects excessive reorganization of the motor cortex
what is an example of how the gray matter expands in the cerebral cortex from practicing a certain skill?
after about 3 months of training, people who learned to juggle three balls continuously for at least 1 minute showed 3% increase in gray matter in areas of the visual cortex that respond to motion
true or false: changes in gray matter can be recorded just 7 days after training
what causes this expansion of cortical gray matter after practicing a skill?
it is unsure. It could reflect changes in the number or size of synapses, changes in the number of glia (the cells providing functional and structural support to neurons), or changes in the size of cortical neurons
what happened in the study done on monkeys, training them to perform a tactile discrimination task?
The task required that the monkey release a handgrip whenever it felt a stimulus on its fingertip that differed from a standard stimulus. The monkey was given fruit juice if it released the handgrip when the vibrations were stronger than usual. When a monkey learned a response to a vibrating tactile stimulus that predicted the delivery of juice, the area of the somatosensory cortex that processed the cue increased. As a result, monkeys that learned the tactile discrimination task had enlarged cortical representations for the finger they used to detect tactile stimuli.
what is an example of how practicing perceptual-motor skills can cause representations within the motor cortex to expand?
electrical stimulation of the motor cortex in monkeys trained to retrieve a small object showed that the area of the cortex that controlled movements of the fingers expanded. Another example is monkeys that learned to turn a key with their forearm, cortical representation of the forearm expanded
we know that cortical networks change as skill learning progresses, but why do we not know how changed in the cerebral cortex cause improved performance?
we know that the cerebral cortex clearly contributes to skill learning and performance, but knowing this is not the same as knowing what cortical circuits do during skill learning
what is one way to get a closer look at understanding cortical contribution to skill learning?
to measure cortical activity during training
when people begin learning a motor skill that requires sequential finger movements, what happens to that part of the motor cortex?
it is activated during performance of the task and expands rapidly during the first training session and more gradually in later sessions
Avi Karni and colleagues created an experiment that required participants to touch each of their fingers to their thumb in a fixed sequence as rapidly and accurately as possible. What happened with participants' performance after many sessions?
their performance of this task improved rapidly in early sessions and more gradually in later sessions, consistent with the power law of practice. Data collected suggests that practice beyond the third week of training (after performance had stabilized) resulted in additional increases in the representation of learned movements in the motor cortex.
what did Karni and colleagues hypothesize about their finger to thumb experiment regarding the early learning in the beginning versus the later learning after many trials?
they guessed that the period of "fast learning" involves processes that select and establish the optimal plans for performing a particular task, whereas the subsequent slower stages of learning reflect long-term structural changes of basic motor control circuits in the cortex
what was the overall conclusion in Karni and colleagues study?
this finding suggests that structural changes in the cortex reflect the enhancement of skill memories during the later stages of training
what happens to the skill learning of animals such as birds and fish that do not have very much cortex?
animals without much cortex must rely on evolutionary older parts of the brain to learn skills, such as the cerebellum
the ____________________ is probably one of the most basic neural systems involved in encoding and retrieving skill memories
what are examples of animals that have small a small cerebral cortex but can still learn perceptual-motor skills?
with practice, fish can learn to press little levers for food. Parrots can also be trained to ride tricycles or produce sentences
where do most of the inputs to the cerebellum come from?
the spinal cord, sensory systems, or cerebral cortex
where do most outputs from the cerebellum go to?
the spinal cord or to motor systems in the cerebral cortex
why is it presumed that the cerebellum serves similar functions in both mammals and nonmammals?
because the structure of the cerebellum is organized similarly across different species
the cerebellum is especially important for learning movement sequences that require precise timing, such as what?
acrobatics, dancing, or competitive team sports
what would happen to someone with cerebellar damage who tried to learn a new dance?
they might be able to learn new dance moves but would struggle synchronizing those moves to the musical rhythm
what happens to the cerebellum of rats that learn complex motor skills to navigate an obstacle course, such as a seesaw or balancing tightropes?
they develop physiological changes in cerebellar neural circuitry, such as increased numbers of synapses
define mirror tracing
an experimental task that requires individuals to trace drawings by watching a mirror image of their hand and the figure to be traced, with the hang and figure concealed; used to test perceptual-motor skill learning
what happens when someone with cerebellar damage attempts to do the mirror tracing task?
they would find it quite difficult, taking them twice as long as someone without damage, even after much training
define mirror reading
an experimental task that requires individuals to read mirror-reversed text; used to test cognitive skill learning
what does it mean when it is stated that cerebellar changes during the learning of the mirror-reading task are lateralized?
this means that each hemisphere of the cerebellum learns this task differently; with the left cerebellum showing decreased activity and the right cerebellum showing increased activity with training
which hemisphere of the cerebellum is most active during the mirror reading task?
almost all cognitive skills require the performance of perceptually guided movements. what is an example of this?
we learned earlier than chess masters move their eyes more efficiently to scan a chessboard than do less experienced players
generally, the cerebellum is most critical for ______________
generally, the cerebral cortex is most critical for ____________________
controlling complex action sequences
generally, the basal ganglia is most critical for ________________
linking sensory events to responses
what is one feature that each the cerebellum, the cerebral cortex, and the basal ganglia have in common?
that skill learning is associated with gradual changes in the firing of neurons in these areas during performance of the skill
what is the most likely mechanism for the changes of the structures of neural circuits during learning?
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