Successful Synaptic Connections and Passive Learning

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 Image: Georgia Institute of Technology

How much can we learn unconsciously by just going through the motions? This type of passive learning is exactly what the Mobile Music Touch (MMT) device is able to help its users accomplish, according to Thad Starner an Associate Professor at Georgia Tech University’s School of Interactive Computing and pioneer in wearable computing. The MMT is worn on the hand and stimulates individual fingers in coordination with music to teach the wearer how to play a song on a piano while doing other tasks such as reading a book or watching television. Using the MMT for 30 minutes, students testing the device were able to learn a simple piano piece while at the same time studying for exams. The product of such unconscious learning is sometimes referred to as muscle memory. Professor Starner terms it Passive Haptic Learning. Devices similar to the MMT may have major implications for the field of Neurological Rehabilitation for patients who have suffered strokes or other traumatic brain and nerve damage. Theoretically, haptic learning devices could help neuro-trauma patients by stimulating neural pathways and helping muscles to go through normal motions. The brain’s continual ability to form new information pathways—neuroplasticity—makes this type of rehabilitation and learning possible. 

If our minds can learn unconsciously by simple stimulation of our muscles, what other things might we be learning without even realizing it? Generally, we think about actively putting our minds to whatever we want to learn. It appears that our minds can also effectively learn by passively soaking up information. This is worthwhile considering while we are just going through the motions. For example, what effect might passive observation of violence and brutality have on us?

David Hulme

Tags: synaptic connections, neuroplasticity, passive haptic leraning, mmt