Friday 11th October, 2013
9:00am to 9:45am
All behavior results from dynamic interactions between neurons. Therefore, lasting modifications of behavior must be associated with lasting modifications of the functional architecture of neuronal networks. The degrees of freedom for these modifications differ for the various architectural features of networks and vary as a function of age. The basic layout of the brain’s architecture is genetically determined but can be modified within certain limits as long as the brain develops. In humans this development lasts approximately until age 20 and is characterized by the making and breaking of connections. Which connections become consolidated depends on functional criteria and the developmental windows, during which selection of circuits is possible, differ for different networks. These use dependent changes in the brain´s architecture mediate the lasting effects of early experience, practice and education. In the mature brain modifications of functional architectures and the associated behavior are realized by use dependent changes of the efficacy of the already consolidated connections. However, not all connections remain plastic, which constrains the range of acquirable skills and the extent of behavioral changes. The mechanisms supporting developmental plasticity and adult learning have been analyzed in great depth. Their dependence on attention and reward will be discussed in the context of the hypothesis that contemplative practice can lead to lasing modifications of behavioral dispositions.
MD., Ph.D., Director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt and founding director of the Ernst Strüngmann Institute (ESI)
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