Brandeis hosts International Workshop on Learning and Memory

25 internationally recognized scientists gathered at Brandeis University from October 3-5, 2010, to discuss recent progress in understanding the neural mechanisms that promote learning. The workshop was sponsored by the Science of Learning Division of the National Science Foundation in a grant to Brandeis University Professor John Lisman, the Zalman Abraham Kekst Chair in Neuroscience. Lisman and Dr. Emrah Duzel, a neurologist from University College London, were the co-organizers of the workshop. Among the leading scientists attending were Mortimer Mishkin, Chief of the Cognitive Section on Neuroscience at NIMH, and the Nobel Prize recipient, Susumu Tonegawa.

The question of how the brain changes during learning has long fascinated scientists. In 1949 the Canadian psychologist, Donald Hebb, proposed that learning new associations involves changes in the strength of synapses. Subsequent work in many laboratories established that synapses do change as we learn and that the process rather closely follows the specific rule that Hebb had postulated.  Recent work, however, has revealed a limitation of Hebb’s rule; the forming of associations depends on the novelty of incoming information and on the motivation to learn, factors that Hebb’s rule cannot account for. The purpose of the workshop was to see how Hebb’s rule could be revised to take into consideration the new findings.
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