Classical and Operant Conditioning
Doctor Josh Dubnau describes the difference between operant and classical conditioning, which are two different learning paradigms often studied in scientific laboratories.
Psychologists traditionally have categorized learning paradigms, and Iâ€™ll explain what that means in a minute, into two different types: one we call classical and one we call operant. A learning paradigm is really just an experimentalistâ€™s way of studying learning. In the wild, we as animals and all other animals learn by bumping around our environment, touching something thatâ€™s hot, and yanking our hand back and realizing that this is hot, and experimentalists have tried to mimic that with a kind of learning paradigm that we call operant. Operant learning is learning where an animalâ€™s actions expose it to stimuli, and their responses to those stimuli determine whether the animal is punished or rewarded. So, operant conditioning is an experimental paradigm done in the laboratory, where the experimenter tries to allow the animal's behavior to reinforce its experiences in a way that mimics the way that animals learn in the wild. The strength of operant conditioning is that itâ€™s more closely related to the way we learn in a normal outside environment, and not in a laboratory. The difficulty with operant conditioning is that we donâ€™t always know what the stimuli are that the animal pays attention to, or whatâ€™s being associated in the brains of the animal. Is the animal learning that its motion of its arm to touch the radiator is causing the painful response, or is it associating the pain with the color and texture of the radiator? We canâ€™t know that and we canâ€™t control how much training the animal receives. The other type of associative learning paradigm that experimentalists use is called classical or Pavlovian learning. And this was invented by the famous scientist Pavlov who studied dogs. Everybody knows about the ringing the bell when you present the dog with food, and the dog learns that the bell predicts the appearance of food. The advantage of this learning paradigm is that the experimenter controls the strength, the number, and the nature of the stimuli that the animal uses to learn a task. The disadvantage is that itâ€™s a little bit artificial, itâ€™s not really the way dogs learn how to find food in the wild.
conditioning, classical, operant, learning, paradigm, pavlov, pavlovian, psychology, memory, experiment, josh, dubnau, cshl
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1428. Genes for Memory
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that genes are responsible for memory in that they contain the raw instructions for memory. Experience determines how these instructions are assembled.
1427. Learning - What is Learning?
Doctor Josh Dubnau describes learning as a change in an animal’s behavior in response to previous stimuli or experience.
1432. Stages of Memory
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that memories seem to be formed in different stages that evolve over time. These include acquisition, short-term storage, and consolidation.
1437. The Shibire Experiment
Doctor Josh Dubnau describes how he and his colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory devised an experiment that dissociated the encoding and retrieval of memory in fruit flies.
1435. Mutant Screens
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that mutant screens generate a large panel of mutant animals that average a mutation in one gene. Each animal is then tested for a particular characteristic.
1434. Do Flies Have Cognition?
Doctor Josh Dubnau discusses some remarkably sophisticated behaviors in fruit flies that suggest that they do have cognition.
1426. Memory - Creating Memories
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that memories result from rapid changes in the connections in a huge network of neurons. We do not know, however, the precise mechanism driving these changes.
1439. Biochemicals - Excitation and Inhibition
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that the genes active in different neurons can make them excitatory (e.g. glutamate) or inhibitory (e.g. GABA). These neurotransmitters are critical to learning.
1436. Disentangling Encoding and Retrieval
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that memories may be present (encoded) but not accessible (retrievable). Scientists have devised a number of experiments for teasing apart encoding from retrieval.
1433. What are Model Systems? (1)
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that model systems are particular species of animals that substitute for humans or other animals. For genetic and historic reasons, the fruit fly is a commonly used model.