Hebbian   Associative learning was derived by the Donald Hebb back in 1949 and is now known as Hebb’s Law. The law states, ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together’, meaning if you continually have thought patterns or do something, time after time, then the neurons in our brain tend to strengthen that   learning, becoming, what we know as ‘habit’.  The more we actually do of whatever we do, the more ‘habitual’ that   learning will become.  Consider driving  a car. When you first start to drive   that car, you will be very conscious about ensuring the seat is in the   correct position, that the mirrors give you a good view, and in your mind,   you will go through a very conscious procedure about checking the car is in   neutral and turning the key, etc.    After a period of time, you tend to get into the car, and although   glancing at the mirrors, checking the gearstick and turning the key, this is   all carried out very sub-consciously, you really do not think (consciously)   about it!  Another great example of   this is a simple thing such as locking your front door.  When you first move into a new house, for a   few weeks, every time you leave the house you will very consciously put the   alarm on and double lock the front door.    After a period of time doing this, the action of setting the alarm and   locking the front door becomes habitual, or second-nature; you do it without   even thinking what you are doing.  You   will possibly realise this even more, when a few hours later, you start to   question yourself as to whether you did lock the door and set the alarm!  Of course, you know you did, but because it   was done at an unconscious level, it is hard to recall.


Habits   are patterns that occur in our brains that effectively form ‘grooves’.  The deeper that ’groove’ then the less we   even think about it at a conscious level.    Habits can be great for us, as a sportsperson, getting into the habit   of swinging a club, bat or racquet a certain way helps us to achieve even   more success, but what if the habit we have is bad and we want to change it?  Strangely, the more we think about   something, the deeper that ‘groove’ will become, the more times we try   something incorrectly, and get it wrong, the ‘groove’ (or neuron) starts to   remember things going wrong.  How do   you stop this habit? Well effectively, start thinking about what you do want   and what is going right.  If you are   playing a musical instrument or using sportspeople again, many times we are   told ‘practice makes perfect’.  Yes it   does… if you are practising the right thing!    A more accurate statement to make would be ‘Practice also makes   permanent’, so if you are practising techniques incorrectly, then that will   become the habit, adversely and of    course much better, is that if you practice the techniques correctly,   then that would become habit.


Hebb’s   Law states, ‘Neurons that fire together, Wire Together’.  On the negative side of this, ‘Neurons that   fire apart, wire apart’.  Effectively   this means that if you do not use it, you’ll lose it!  This is not strictly true, but what is fact   that you will have to re-learn certain aspects until it becomes habit   again.  An example of this could be   given that as a child you learn to ride a bicycle.  Having ridden that bicycle every day as a   child you build up habits and the actual process of riding that bicycle and   doing wheelies, jumps off kerbs and such things, become second nature or   habit.  This embeds the idea of   ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together’.    If you then stop riding for a few years, but then one day decide to   get on a bicycle again, although you will be able to possibly, ride the   bicycle, you may need to wire a few more neurons together until you are ready   to do wheelies and kerb jumps again! 


The   neurons in our brain are constantly changing, dependent on what we are   thinking or indeed the way we act.  If   we use a certain skill throughout our lives then we can actual develop that   part of the Neural Network to a greater degree. As a musician, perhaps a   guitarist or saxophonist, who will use their fingers to a large degree in   plucking the strings or pressing the keys, the neural networks that control   the finger dexterity will have enlarged.    The more active the neurons in a certain part of the brain, the more   they will recruit and use more neurons, which in turn increases the neural   network.


In   order to increase the way our brain is circuited or wired up, we need to   increase neural networks be forming habits for the things that we do want in   life, rather than those that we don’t, concentrate on the positives, rather   than the negative.  You are what you   think!


Learned   helplessness or learned paralysis occurs when an animal (including humans) is   repeatedly subjected to a negative stimulus to such an extent that the person   in the end will learn to be helpless, or for want of a simpler phrase, will   give up.  Even when there are hard   facts or circumstances that will enable them to improve the learned   helplessness will prevent them from taking any action. 


A   remarkable story is the case of zoo owner, John Aspinall who fell into a bear   pit and was almost killed by an angry bear.    Fortunately surviving, he reported afterwards that as he lay on the   ground in the bear enclosure expecting to suffer a horrible death, he was   overwhelmed by a sudden strange sense of relief and tranquillity, and noted   that this must be some natural mechanism that enables prey animals to face   painful and terrifying death.  (Dawes,   Understanding Quantum Thinking, 2008, p.116).


He   concept of learned helplessness is normally associated with animals, however,   it can relate to people in many ways.    When children or adults feel they have no control over their   situation, their behaviour shows signs of being helpless, again, when   opportunities are presented to improve or get out of the situation or   circumstance, they portray ‘helplessness’ or paralysis and do not take the   opportunity.


In   young children at school, who maybe get told a few times they are no good at   art or another subject, and keep getting poor results, will often feel that   any art work they produce is not worthy, therefore, when asked to produce   even a simple sketch or something associated with art will adopt a sense of   helplessness.


Several   psychological disorders  such as   depression, anxiety and phobias can all be exacerbated by learned   helplessness, a person who is anxious in large groups or open spaces for   example, may feel that there is nothing they can do to relieve the problem   and that it is out of control, limits her socialising in large groups or open   spaces, effectively increasing her anxiety, or ‘learned helplessness’.  Hebb’s Law, concerning ‘Neurons that fire   together, wire together’, demonstrates that the more we think in an unresponsive   way or a negative way, the deeper that ‘groove’ becomes. 


New   learning has to take place in order to reverse the downward spiral of   ‘Learned Helplessness’.  The chain of   thought needs to be broken, with more emphasis of what is good and positive   rather than the cause of the helplessness, which is having a degenerative   implication on the person.  Laughter   was said, by Norman Cousins, to ‘be the best medicine’ and during the 1960’s   he certainly proved that theory, prescribing his own medicine of a nurse who   would read humorous stories and jokes to him and he would watch tapes of the   Marx Brothers.  Having been diagnosed   with a body tissue illness by a qualified Doctor, and prescribed high doses   of painkillers, Cousins thought that the negative thoughts coupled with the   painkillers were actually doing more harm than good to his body.  By teaching his ‘neurons’ to ‘wire   together’ in a positive manner he overcame his illness and even now in the   world of medicine, many other independent medical studies have revealed that   laughter itself boosts endorphins which are the body’s own painkillers and   suppresses the stress hormone in our system.   


We   never ever stop learning on a daily basis, even hourly, yet how much of it do   we really understand?  To become a   better, more efficient learner, firstly discover how you personally learn   best.  As we discussed earlier, just   repeating information over and over again, despite some teachers at school   reading passages out verbatim and believing they were doing us a favour, is   not always the best method of knowledge transfer!  Learn, if it is possible, in many different   ways, either by observing what someone is doing, by listening or by actually   involving yourself in the subject you are learning.  You seriously wouldn’t learn a foreign   language purely by reading a book or watching someone else as a stand-alone   activity?  By having a mixture of   stimuli, appealing to our sensory receptors, we are far more likely to be   able to learn quicker, more efficiently and with maximum recall.