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VCE Psychology Units 3 & 4 Chapter 9: Mechanisms of learning

Plasticity of the brain

What is learning?
Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience. The change in behaviour may be immediate or delayed.
Source: Macmillan

Learning can be: intentional unintentional active passive.

Give one example of each.

What is plasticity?
Plasticity is the ability of the brains neural structure or function to be changed by experience throughout the lifespan. There are two types of plasticity:
Plasticity

Developmental plasticity

Adaptive plasticity

Occurs as brain development proceeds according to its maturational blueprint or plan.

Apparent in recovery from trauma due to brain injury.

What is developmental plasticity?


Developmental plasticity refers to changes in the brains neural structure in response to experience during its growth and development. Developmental plasticity is influenced by the genes we inherit but is also subject to influence by experience.
Source: Brand X

Developmental plasticity
Key terms relating to developmental plasticity: synaptogenesisthe process of forming new synapses. When does synaptogenesis occur most rapidly? synaptic pruningthe process of eliminating synaptic connections. What determines which connections will be retained and which ones will be pruned?

Developmental plasticity
A sensitive (or critical) period is a specific period of time in development when an organism is more sensitive to certain environmental stimuli or experiences.

Which one of these people would most easily learn another language and why?

Source: Stockbyte

Developmental plasticity
Identify the age of the person by the amount of neural connections in their brain:

Age 6

At birth

Age 14

What is adaptive plasticity?


Adaptive plasticity refers to changes occurring in the brains neural structure to enable adjustment to experience, to compensate for lost function and/or to maximise remaining functions in the event of brain damage. At what stages of the lifespan is adaptive plasticity quicker, more substantial and extensive?

Source: Getty

Adaptive plasticity
At the neuronal level, the two processes for recovery are re-routing and sprouting. Both of these processes involve forming new connections between undamaged neurons, however they do so in different ways. What is the difference between re-routing and sprouting?

Adaptive plasticity
When MRI scans of London taxi
drivers (who find new routes daily) are compared with London bus drivers (who follow a limited number of set routes daily), they show that the rear part of the hippocampus of taxi drivers, ____________ spatial which is involved in ______

navigation and memory, is _________


larger significantly ______.

Source:Pixtal

Adaptive plasticity
Neuro-imaging studies show that in musicians who play string instruments, the area of

cortex the somatosensory _____________ ______


that represents the fingers of the

left hand is _____ larger than the area


that represents the fingers on the right hand.
Source: Brand X

Quick quiz
Question 1: What is learning? Answer: A relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience. Question 2: What is plasticity? Answer: The ability of the brains neural structure or function to be changed by experience throughout the lifespan. Question 3: Name the two types of plasticity. Answer: Developmental; adaptive. Question 4: Developmental plasticity is influenced by experience and _________________. Answer: Genetic inheritance. Question 5: What is the difference between synaptogenesis and synaptic pruning? Answer: Synaptogenesis is the process of forming new synapses whereas synaptic pruning is the process of eliminating synaptic connections. Question 6: A sensitive period refers to the growth of bushier nerve fibres with more branches to make new neuronal connections. True or false? Answer: False, this is the definition of sprouting. Question 7: Adaptive plasticity is known to occur in response to brain injury. True or false? Answer: True.