Leaning is a process of remembering how to do something.
One of the reasons why humans have advanced is that we have learnt and remembered how to do new things, so we don’t have to relearn how to do something every time we want to do it.
Now, research has shown that how we learn may have an impact on how we remember.
Two ways to learn
There are, generally speaking, two ways to learn
- By association, we learn because we have experienced something new, and perhaps solved a problem associated with that new experience. it is likely that this information is stored in a way that enables it to be updated most easily, or indeed deliberately discarded.
- By reinforcement, we make a conscious decision to learn something new. It is possible that knowledge gained from reinforcement learning can be retained for a long period of time.
Different sections of the brain
Researchers from organisations in Oxford, England Department of Experimental Psychology, the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, and the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences have identified that different ways of learning link to memories stored in different parts of the brain.
Not only did the researchers identify that how we learn may impact how we store the memory of that learning, but that the way in which we learn and store that knowledge may also impact how easily we can retrieve that knowledge and how long we are able to keep it.
I suppose it’s all supports the adage that if you learn a new skill you have to use it or lose it.
The research team was analysed data from 26 people aged between 19 and 35, who had agreed to have MRI scans done as they completed different learning tasks.
The MRI scans allowed the researchers to observe any changes taking place in brain regions associated with learning and identify that different ways of learning — incidental versus goal-oriented — created activity in different neural pathways in the participants’ brains.
It is commonly accepted that humans can learn in different ways. Sometimes that learning is the result of observing relationships between things or people. Other times the learning will be the result of wanting to achieve an objective.
This research has identified that humans have multiple networks inside the brain that help with the storage of knowledge, skills or associations.
Knowing this and the different ways of learning associated with the damaged area of the brain means that if the way an undamaged part of the brain works can be identified it will still be possible for that person to learn.