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aeraeber's picture

CPG and Memory

Central pattern generation and corollary discharge go a long way towards bridging the gap between neurons and behavior. They give a good explanation of how a pattern of activity in motor neurons can cause a coordinated physical action, even in the absence of some overall guiding force (a conductor). What they don’t really explain all that well is how thinking is a pattern of neuronal activity. Physical activities require similar patterns each time they are enacted, throwing a ball, even if you change the angle or the force, is the same base action each time, so it makes sense that it involves a definable pattern of activity in motor neurons. Thinking, however; doesn’t seem like it should work that way. Even if we think about the same idea more than once, we think about it in different ways each time and while changes in physical actions tend to be based on changes in sensory inputs that is not usually the case with thinking.

On a somewhat related note, Thursday’s discussion made me wonder why we tend to forget memorized information so much more easily than memorized physical actions. It’s not very difficult to ride a bicycle again after several years of not having done so, but much more difficult to repeat a poem you memorized in the 5th grade. Why do these types of memory work differently? And how does forgetting actually work? If a memory is a network of connected neurons, and remembering is an activation of that network, then is forgetting just a loss of one or more of the connections in the network, or is it more complicated than that? Does a stronger memory equate to stronger connections in the network?



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