Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Of Habits and Memory


Psychologist Mortimer Mishkin was born on this day in 1926 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

"The work of Mortimer Mishkin and his colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health is tracing the route by which the sensory information in the visual area of the cortex is transmitted to the limbic system where it is stored and integrated with processes of memory and learning . . . Mishkin's work is clarifying the great debate between the behaviorist and cognitive approaches to understanding how memory and learning take place . . . Habits, which have been described by behaviorists as automatic stimulus-response connections that take place whenever there is an adequate reward, are designated by Mishkin as the more basic process that operates at all levels of life, from the most primitive one-celled organisms to man. A cognitive process of self-reflection and thinking is not required for the formation of such habits. The acquisition of information, knowledge and a self-conscious and self-driven memory system, as described by the cognitive-learning theorists, requires the evolution of a 'cortico-limbic-thalamic' pathway that is characteristic of all the more advanced life forms, such as mammals and man

. . . Mishkin's research and current investigations in the 'multichannel integrations of normal behavior' . . . provide a new experimental research base for studying how information is transmitted, transduced, and sometimes 'stuck' in a state-bound form so that it becomes what people ordinarily label as a 'problem' or a 'symptom.'"

-- E.L. Rossi, The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing.

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