Explain the concept of experience-dependent plasticity in the brain. Provide a hypothetical example of how this might occur in a young child.

8. Explain the concept of experience-dependent plasticity in the brain. Provide a hypothetical example of how this might occur in a young child.

Experience-dependent plasticity refers to the study of how the brain responds to its environment; as well as how environmental changes impacts the biological organization of the brain.

Research supports the ideathat we have neurons that respond to specific types of stimuli; this way we know when something is vertical, horizontal, obliquus, etc. Research suggests that complex variations in the environment (and therefore the individual’s experience) affect brain structure and function.

This experience-dependent plasticity is observed in numerous cell types, brain regions, and circuits and can contribute significantly to stress regulation, mood, cognition, addiction, etc. A good hypothetical example of how this might occur in a young child would be exposing a child to only one way to build a house with blocks rather than letting him do it his way; he’ll probably attempt to build the house the way he sees it in real life, four vertical walls with a horizontal roof. Their concept of the house will be always the same so they will find it difficult to break their schemas and create a different model using a different architectural technique. 

9. Why are memories represented in the brain differently than sensory stimuli? Give an example comparing how the brain would process a visual stimulus and a memory, and explain your reasoning. Memories should be seen as virtual recreations of the real world, and the way we retrieve them is by bringing our brain to the exact configuration of the moment we received the stimulus. This explain why we remember things when we recreate factors that are consistent with the moment at which we created the memory. For example, we might not remember the name of the hotel we stayed in during our last vacations, but we do remember we had a delicious specific food plate at that place. We’ll probably remember the name of the hotel once we try that specific food plate again. We make use of our senses to receive stimuli, perceive them, and consolidate it in our short or long memory. In psychology, memory refers to the process of storing information, how it is retrieved and encoded, whereas the perception is defined as the process of interpreting information as well as recognizing the sensory stimulus. Memory is different from perception and so is their neural representation. Making use of techniques such as MRI we can literally define the areas that show more activity when responding to specific stimuli, such as occipital activity upon visual stimuli, or temporal activity upon auditory stimuli. We cannot do the same with memories since we cannot trace their exact location. 

Sensory memory in psychology is the memory process that stores information taken in by the senses.

These sensory impressions are stored very briefly when compared to other types of memory. Although humans rely on sensory information to create memories and increase understanding, they do not necessarily have to retain impressions of sensory input long-term in order to maintain memory stores or sort through information. Research has shown that memory is stored in neural networks in different parts of the brain, which are associated with different types of memory, including short-term memory, sensory memory, and long-term memory. Memory traces, or engrams, are physiological neural changes associated with memories. Scientists have learned about these neuronal codes from studies on neuroplasticity. The encoding of episodic memory involves permanent changes in molecular structures, which alter communication between neurons. Recent functional-imaging studies have detected working-memory signals in the medial temporal lobe and prefrontal cortex. The frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex are both associated with long- and short-term memory, suggesting a strong link between these two types of memory. 

10. Explain the difference between functional connectivity and structural connectivity. Provide an example to support your thinking. When applied to the brain, the term connectivity refers to several different and interrelated aspects of brain organization. The human brain is characterized by structural and functional connectivity within and between regions. As the name implies, structural connectivity refers to the anatomical organization of the brain with its structure’s connectivity via fiber (neural) tracts. Recent advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and image processing show various means to quantify structural connectivity in a non-invasive way using short-range local measures and/or long-range tract tracing procedures, which is called diffusion tractography. On the other hand, functional connectivity refers to the connection of different brain areas based on a specific function. As the class video mentions, functional connectivity measures the synchrony or correlation of brain activity between two or more regions. Common methods include seed connectivity, independent components analysis, and voxel-wise connectivity. Seed-based connectivity measures functional connectivity from a predefined region of interest (ROI, or seed, shown in green) and the rest of the gray matter.

Regions of positive or negative functional connectivity are shown as red and blue regions. Independent components analysis is mathematical modeling technique that parcellates the brain into independent spatial components or networks.