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AndyMittelman's picture

          I found the

          I found the experiment with the baby birds in straightjackets to be very interesting. Unfortunately, I could not find video of it, but I can imagine this would have been pretty funny to watch. It is fascinating that the baby birds, like babies, have a certain innate ability to walk. In this sense, “learning” to do something like this seems to be more of a time-activated genetic feature. What are the limits of this innately-acquired skill set? If babies intrinsically know how to walk, and birds intrinsically know how to fly, then surely there are other skill sets we unknowingly possess in our genetic code. What if we innately “knew” how to ski or how to shoot a bow and arrow? I’m curious as to how this applies to swimming. For evolutionary purposes, certainly we must have some basic ability written into our genetic code.

          Jeannette raised an interesting point about “unlearning” these skills stored in the central pattern generators. Perhaps these motor pattern scores are archived in our CPGs, but can become “dusty” if not used for extensive periods of time. [Maybe this explains what people say about learning a second language- if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.] So why is it that these motor scores can atrophy with time? Imagine a young boy who likes to run a lot. His motor score for running is routinely being accessed, and his nervous system is extremely adept at performing the set of actions called for by the CPG. Now imagine he doesn’t run at all for a few years. If he were to try to run again, it would be the same impulses as always, and the CPG would be sending the same set of commands. However, he has grown a lot, things have changed, (size of limbs, chemistry of his body, etc) and now the old score is not as appropriate for his new bodily conditions. In other words, maybe the CPGs dictate very precise signals that are attuned to bodily conditions. If bodily conditions change and CPGs do not change with them, we may not be able to execute the motor symphony as adeptly. It would be like playing the same old song but with a different instrument; it may not work as well at first.

          I am excited to learn how this all integrates with mental scores. Just as we have physical motor scores, we probably also have mental scores. Maybe this explains why certain things are engrained in our brain and it doesn’t take cognitive effort to recall them. If you ask a small child their address, they would probably give it to you in one unbroken continuous memorized sentence. This bit of information may be stored in a mental score, just as the swimmeret movement is stored in localized CPG. The mental scores seem a little more ambiguous at first, but I’m sure we’ll get to them soon.


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