Preplay | How Past Experiences Drive New Behavior

image via Macalster.eduRoseTracker| Researchers at MIT are reporting for the first time how animals’ knowledge learned in past experiences can subconsciously influence behavior in new tasks and environments. The work, conducted by research scientist George Dragoi and Susumu Tonegawa of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics, found that “some of the sequences of place cells in mice’ brains that fired during a novel spatial experience such as running a new maze had already occurred while the animals rested before the experience.”

Rather than learning on the run, so to speak, brain neurons were firing in advance of the actions, based on prior knowledge of similar situations. In the fabulously interesting arena of brain science. the researchers were able to time sequence the mouse action versus neuron firing in the hippocampus part of the brain. Significant neuron firing ocurred before the run, when the mouse was at rest.

This research explains another reason why two people can assess the same situation differently.

There are multiple factors in play, not just this new research. Some people’s brains are more complex than others, for examples. Fast-food-eating brains shrink in critical thinking capacity. But the finding is significant in understanding the neurological process by which the brain operates, based on past experiences.

This research prompts a critical question about Carl Jung’s beliefs: will scientists eventually demonstrate that a collective unconscious exists, demonstrating a past-history brain function that is genetic and not only enculturated. Interestingly, Carl Jung is gaining attention again.

This Macalester College short postulates about the role of emotion in learning and memory. The new research, via Science Daily, calls the process ‘preplay’.