Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning

This handbook provides a cohesive overview of the study of associative learning as
it is approached from the stance of scientists with complementary interests in its theoretical analysis and biological basis. These interests have been pursued by studying humans and animals, and the content of this handbook reflects this fact. Wiley, the publishers of this series of handbooks, gave us free rein in determining the overarching focus of this book, associative learning, and the specific topics that would be included. We have taken full advantage of this latitude and thank them for their support throughout the editorial process. Our choice of topics was determined by a combination of their enduring significance and contemporary relevance. The contributors then chose themselves, as it were, on the basis of their expertise. Inevitably, there has been some bias in our choices, and we have made only a limited attempt to cover all of the domains of research that have resulted in significant scientific progress. However, we hope that you will be as interested to read the contributions that we have selected as we were to receive them. It remains for us to express our thanks to the contributors who have followed, fortunately not slavishly, their individual remits and who have collectively produced a handbook that we hope will be of interest to a broad readership. Finally, we would like to thank Laurence Errington for generating the comprehensive subject index, which provides the reader with an effective tool for negotiating the volume as a whole.

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How Social Isolation Transforms the Brain

A new study reveals the neurobiological effects of social isolation in mice. Researchers report a neurochemical called tachykinin is overproduced during long term social isolation, leading to increased aggression and fear.

Chronic social isolation has debilitating effects on mental health in mammals–for example, it is often associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in humans. Now, a team of Caltech researchers has discovered that social isolation causes the build-up of a particular chemical in the brain, and that blocking this chemical eliminates the negative effects of isolation. The work has potential applications for treating mental health disorders in humans.

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Babies would rather talk to other babies than you

We know that babies prefer the high-pitched sounds produced by their caregivers in “baby talk” over regular speech, but a new study provides an exciting new perspective. At five months of age, it seems that babies prefer to listen to the sounds of their peers to the cooing of their mother.

Researchers at the University of Quebec tested babies on their preference for different speakers by using a specialized speech synthesizer. They were able to simulate the effects of the human vocal tract—the vocal cords, tongue and mouth—to create vowels with differing pitch and resonance, representing vowels produced by vocal tracts of different sizes.

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The Power of your Sub-Conscious Mind

Infinite riches are all around you if you will open your mental eyes and behold the
treasure house of infinity within you. There is a gold mine within you from which you can extract everything you need to live life gloriously, joyously, and abundantly.
Many are sound asleep because they do not know about this gold mine of infinite intelligence and boundless love within themselves. Whatever you want, you can draw forth. A magnetized piece of steel will lift about twelve times its own weight, and if you demagnetize this same piece of steel, it will not even lift a feather. Similarly, there are two types of men. There is the magnetized man who is full of confidence and faith. He knows that he is born to win and to succeed. Then, there is the type of man who is demagnetized. He is full of fears and doubts.

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Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience

Existentialisms arise when the foundations of being, such as meaning, morals, and purpose come under assault. In the first-wave of existentialism, writings typified by Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche concerned the increasingly apparent inability of religion, and religious tradition, to support a foundation of being. Second-wave existentialism, personified philosophically by Sartre, Camus, and de Beauvoir, developed in response to similar realizations about the overly optimistic Enlightenment vision of reason and the common good.

The third-wave of existentialism, a new existentialism, developed in response to advances in the neurosciences that threaten the last vestiges of an immaterial soul or self. Given the increasing explanatory and therapeutic power of neuroscience, the mind no longer stands apart from the world to serve as a foundation of meaning. This produces foundational anxiety.

In Neuroexistentialism, a group of contributors that includes some of the world’s leading philosophers, neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and legal scholars, explores the anxiety caused by third-wave existentialism and possible responses to it. Together, these essays tackle our neuroexistentialist predicament, and explore what the mind sciences can tell us about morality, love, emotion, autonomy, consciousness, selfhood, free will, moral responsibility, law, the nature of criminal punishment, meaning in life, and purpose.

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Why We Need to Figure Out a Theory of Consciousness

A new article looks at theories of consciousness and novel research aimed at providing a better understanding of the roots of consciousness.

Understanding the biology behind consciousness (or self-awareness) is considered by some to be the final frontier of science. And over the last decade, a fledgling community of “consciousness scientists” have gathered some interesting information about the differences between conscious and unconscious brain activity.

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Sleep Better, Parent Better

Study reveals mothers who have insufficient sleep, or lack of quality sleep, are more irritable, suffer impaired attention and are less consistent in their parenting of their adolescents.

Research has shown that consistently not getting enough sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, can put you at risk for a number of health conditions. But how does sleep, or the lack of it, affect how you parent?

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How Young Children Deal with Death

Researchers consider how best to approach the subject of death with young children.

“Mummy, what happens after we die?” Many parents have been asked this kind of question, and it is often difficult to know how best to reply. Should you be open about your own beliefs – whether they are religious, agnostic or atheist? And is it OK to sugarcoat? Recent research in developmental psychology provides some advice.

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How Decisions Form in the Brain

Researchers describe what happens in the brain just prior to making a decision.

Real-time monitoring of the dynamics of endogenous molecules in organisms is an important aspect in the study of diseases. However, this process is difficult because of issues such as sensitivity, resolution, and invasiveness. This challenge has become a major motivation for the development of new effective tools for real-time monitoring of analytes of interest.

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The Biology of Love

What do your cells have to do with love? Molecular biology and romance seem unlikely bedfellows, but according to Dr. Bruce Lipton, a stem cell biologist, bestselling author of The Biology of Belief and recipient of the 2009 Goi Peace Award, it’s quite an affair. He calls it the “Honeymoon Effect.”

Almost everyone can remember a time when they were “head-over-heels in love.” During this juicy time of life, points out Lipton, our perception of the world expands and our eyes twinkle with delight. Our affection isn’t limited to our selected partner; rather we are in love with life itself and it shows.

We take risks to experiment with new foods, activities and clothes. We listen more, share more and take more time for pleasure. Lipton chuckles about how what seems hostile the day before becomes heaven on earth when we’re in love. We don’t even notice the aggressive drivers that irritated the heck out of us yesterday; today, we’re lost in daydreams and love songs.

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Read also: Biology of Love

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