Psychology Magazine

From Learning to Instinct

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
I pass on a few chunks from the Science Perspective article by Robinson and Barron:
An animal mind is not born as an empty canvas: Bottlenose dolphins know how to swim and honey bees know how to dance without ever having learned these skills. Little is known about how animals acquire the instincts that enable such innate behavior. Instincts are widely held to be ancestral to learned behavior. Some have been elegantly analyzed at the cellular and molecular levels, but general principles do not exist. Based on recent research, we argue instead that instincts evolve from learning and are therefore served by the same general principles that explain learning.
Tierney first proposed in 1986 that instincts can evolve from behavioral plasticity, but the hypothesis was not widely accepted, perhaps because there was no known mechanism. Now there is a mechanism, namely epigenetics. DNA methylation, histone modifications, and noncoding RNAs all exert profound effects on gene expression without changing DNA sequence. These mechanisms are critical for orchestrating nervous system development and enabling learning-related neural plasticity.
For example, when a mouse has experienced fear of something, changes in DNA methylation and chromatin structure in neurons of the hippocampus help stabilize long-term changes in neural circuits. These changes help the mouse to remember what has been learned and support the establishment of new behavioral responses. Epigenetic mechanisms that support instinct by operating on developmental time scales also support learning by operating on physiological time scales. Evolutionary changes in epigenetic mechanisms may sculpt a learned behavior into an instinct by decreasing its dependence on external stimuli in favor of an internally regulated program of neural development (see the figure).
From learning to instinct
There is evidence for such epigenetically driven evolutionary changes in behavior. For example, differences in innate aggression levels between races of honey bees can be attributed to evolutionary changes in brain gene expression that also control the onset of aggressive behavior when threatened. These kinds of changes can also explain more contemporary developments, including new innate aspects of mating and foraging behavior in house finches associated with their North American invasion 75 years ago, and new innate changes in the frequency and structure of song communication in populations of several bird species now living in urban environments. We propose that these new instincts have emerged through evolutionary genetic changes that acted on initially plastic behavioral responses.

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Father James Martin's Bridge-Building Metaphor and Call to Mutual Respect Betwee...

    Father James Martin's Bridge-Building Metaphor Call Mutual Respect Between Catholic Leaders LGBTQ Community: Critical Commentary

    I have not read Father James Martin's new book Building a Bridge, which calls on the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church to collaborate with the LGBTQ... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   William Lindsey
    LGBTQ, RELIGION, SOCIETY
  • Caution: This Can Cause Addiction

    Caution: This Cause Addiction

    I opened my low-carb/keto clinic with Nurse Sylvie in February 2017, inside the medical clinic where I do my regular general practice. To get people to enroll,... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Review - Vichy Mineral 89 Skin Fortifying Daily Booster

    I'm always battling with dry and dehydrated skin.. even when I do nothing different, my skin will... Click for Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Chantana
    HAIR & BEAUTY, LIFESTYLE
  • Talk Show Host: Not Here to Make Friends

    Talk Show Host: Here Make Friends

    photo: Harley Haskett Toronto based Talk Show Host are quick to release a new EP. Not Here to Make Friends sounds cheerful and angry at the same time,... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Hctf
    ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC
  • The Human Design... Not All Bad!

    Human Design... Bad!

    Whatever or whoever it was that designed the human, had to have been at the least, a sadist. Now the design isn’t all that bad, it’s just that there were a few... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Skip1957
    DIARIES, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Citrus Marshmallow Sundaes

    Citrus Marshmallow Sundaes

    We all know what a Sundae is, and I am sure we have all secretly had one at some stage in our lives even those of us who are now on the healthy no sugar […] Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Shadesofcinnamon
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES
  • Konkani Style, Hog Plum Pickle…

    Konkani Style, Plum Pickle…

    Summer is full of Sun, fun, travel yumminess.. For those who love Mangoes its the season.. The kids have vacations... The markets are filled with an amazing... Read more

    The 22 June 2017 by   Anithanayak
    FOOD & DRINK, RECIPES

Magazines