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The neurobiology of operant learning: biophysical and molecular mechanisms in a hierarchical organi
AuthorBjörn Brembs
Author email bjoern©
Author website
DescriptionLearning about relationships between stimuli (i.e., classical conditioning) and learning about consequences of one’s own behavior (i.e., operant con-ditioning) constitute the major part of our predictive understanding of the world. This habilitation thesis comprises selected publications on the neurobiological Mechanisms of operant learning and its interactions with classical learning. A prerequisite for operant learning is spontaneous behavioral variability for which we found first neurobiological determinants. We discovered modifications in the biophysical membrane properties of identified Aplysia neurons in which operant behavior and reward converge. The processes modifying Drosophila neurons during pure operant learning were genetically different from those during classical learning. As soon as predictive stimuli are present in operant learning situations, these stimuli become equivalent to classical stimuli not only with respect to their independence from the behavior with which they were learned, but these composite experiments cannot be distinguished genetically from classical experiments any more. Operant control over such predictive, classical stimuli facilitates learning of these stimuli. At the same time, such operantly facili-tated of classical learning inhibits operant learning. The putative function of this inhibition is to prevent premature habit formation from interfering with the generalization of classical memories.
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