Samenvatting Chapter 12 - Learning and memory

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Samenvatting - Chapter 12 - Learning and memory

  • 1 -

  • What is learning?
    Learning is an adaptive change in behavior in response to experience.
  • What are the 4 stages of learning?
    1. Acquisition
    2. Consolidation
    3. Retrieval
    4. Extinction
  • What is memory and is it affected by hormones?
    Memory is the encoding, storage and retrieval (or forgetting) of information about past experience.
    Hormones can affect any of the 3 stages.
  • What is non-associative learning and what types are there?
    Non-associative learning occurs after repeated presentation of a single stimulus.
    Types are:
    • Sensitization: a stimulus that originally provoked little or no response begins to evoke stronger responses after several presentations
    • Habituation: generalized and simple form of learning. Involves learning not to respond after repeated exposure to a stimulus
    • Sensory adaption: when sensory receptors that are repeatedly exposed to a stimulus stop sending nerve impulses to the CNS.
  • What is the difference between habituation and sensory adaption?
    In sensory adaption the messages do not reach the CNS, in habituation the messages do reach the CNS but are ignored.
  • What is associative learning?
    Learning about relationships. Also called conditioning.
  • Explain classical conditioning.
    • In classical conditioning (Pavlov) a response that was originally elicited by one stimulus can now be elicited by another stimulus that originally had no effect
    • Original stimulus (food) is called an unconditioned stimulus (US) and the response (salivation) is called an unconditioned response (UR).
    • The second stimulus (bell) is called a conditioned stimulus (CS) and the response that is similar to the UR is called a conditioned response (CR).
  • Explain operant conditioning.
    Operant conditioning (Skinner box, trial-and-error learning) occurs when an animal performs an action in the course of appetitive or searching behavior, frequently by accident, which is reinforced or awarded.

    If the act is performed and rewarded several times, the association gradually builds. If the reward is removed, the response is extinguished.
  • Explain extinction and forgetting
    • Extinction occurs when an individual stops responding to a stimulus following a series of non-reinforced experiences. Individual has unlearned or learned something new to replace previous information. 
    • Forgetting is the decay of a memory trace or the inability to retrieve stored information as function of the time since learning. 
  • What is aversive learning? Name an example.
    In aversive learning an aversion is created toward a targeted behavior by pairing it with an unpleasant stimulus, such as a painful electric shock.
    Examples are active and passive avoidance.
  • What is active avoidance?
    Active avoidance refers to a situation in which an animal must do something to avoid a harmful situation.
  • What is passive avoidance?
    Passive avoidance refers to a situation in which an animal must learn to suppress some behavior that would otherwise be displayed.
  • 2 -

  • What is appetitive learning?
    With appetitive learning an animal learns to perform a task that is rewarded with food, water or some other pleasant experience. E.g. a rat can learn to navigate a maze if it receives a food reward at the end. 
  • How long do short and long term memory last?
    • Short term memory: seconds to minutes.
    • Long term memory: days, weeks, years. 
  • In what categories is the long-term memory divided and in what categories are those categories divided?
    Divided into procedural and declarative memory.

    • Procedural (implicit) memory: memory for "knowing how".
    1. Skill learning: remembering how to play the piano or how to ride a bike.
    2. Priming. Involves a change in memory or processing of a stimulus as a result of s previous experience. E.g. being more likely to use a word you recently heard.
    3. Conditioning. Includes memory for both classical and operant conditioning. E.g. salivating when you see your favorite food.

    • Declarative (explicit) memory: memory for "knowing what" or knowing facts.
    1. Semantic memory. General knowledge of facts and events. E.g. knowing the capitol of Australia.
    2. Episodic memory. Memory of personal events. E,g, remembering your high school graduation.
  • Explain working memory, reference memory and spatial memory.
    • Working memory is similar to declarative and short term memory. It involves short term memory for information that changes on a regular basis
    • Reference memory refers to associations or discrimination requiring repetitious learning e.g. learning the rules of how to navigate through a maze.
    • Spatial memory is the memory for the location of items or places in space e.g. finding your keys or remembering the location of your classroom
  • Successful learning involves motivation, attention and arousal.
  • What hormone affects memory and what does it do?
    Epinephrine enhances memory and the effects are dose- and time-dependent.
    • Low and high blood levels of epinephrine impair memory whereas moderate epinephrine levels enhance memory.
    • Epinephrine is released in response to stressful situations, it's possible that epinephrine enhances the effects of harmful stimuli to train the animal in active avoidance.
    • Epinephrine can facilitate in encoding, storing and retrieving information by:
    1. Affecting memory via its effect on blood glucose levels.
    2. Activating peripheral receptors that directly influence brain functions
  • What is hyperglycemia? And explain the glucose hypothesis.
    • Hyperglycemia is an increase in blood glucose levels. Caused by epinephrine secretion
    • Glucose enhances memory for avoidance learning and the effects of glucose are time-dependent. 

    Elevated blood glucose levels --> more glucose enters the neurons --> increase in the release of acetylcholine from the brain.
  • Explain the peripheral-receptor hypothesis.
    • Epinephrine modulates memory by activating peripheral receptors that communicate with the central nervous system
    • These receptors activate ascending neurons in the vagus nerve.
    • These neurons travel to the nucleus of the solitary tract (NST), which projects noradrenergic fibers to the amygdala
    • Which in turn modulates the memory of emotional experiences
  • Unregulated blood glucose levels interfere with learning, therefore diabetic humans or animals should have trouble learning.
  • What is the effect of acute and chronic stress and glucocorticoids on learning?
    • Acute stress appears to promote lasting memories by activation of the glucocorticoid receptors (GRs). 
    • Chronic stress (or long term treatment with corticosterone) impairs memory


    Glucocorticoids enhance the memory and these effects involve the amygdala, which modulates the memory strengthening process that occurs elsewhere in the brain. 
  • What are the differences between male and female rats in learning and memory regarding spatial learning tasks? And by what is this difference mediated?
    • Females learn active avoidance faster than males
    • Males do better at passive avoidance tasks.
    • In the radial-arm maze, males learned fewer total cues and could master the task faster than females.


    Difference is mediated by hormonal effects on the hippocampus.
  • What is the difference between males and females in the effects of sex hormone on learning performance, by what is this influenced and by what is this organized?
    May be influenced by intrinsic factors like stress
    • Males and females differ in their perception of stressors. Females have higher corticosterone values than males. 
    • Acute or brief exposure to stress improve the performance on spatial and visual tasks by male rats, whereas long exposure impairs their performance.
    • Females are relatively resistant to the impairing effects of long-term stress

    Sex differences are organized by early perinatal hormonal events
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