Physiological learning theory


Attention or “concentration” requires control of activity in those excess neurons that are not necessary for the present task. The control is probably not a massive inhibitory suppression but may be a recruiting process, a function of complex perceptual and associative learning that begins with early experience. Inhibition, however, may still be of crucial importance as a sharpener of associative mechanisms, and the child with minimal brain damage may have suffered a selective loss of inhibitory neurons.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Estes, W. K.Learning theory and mental development. New York: Academic Press, 1970.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Goldfarb, W. Effects of early institutional care on adolescent personality.Journal of Experimental Education, 1943,12, 106–129.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Hebb, D. O.The organization of behavior. New York: Wiley, 1949.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Hebb, D. O., Lambert, W. E., & Tucker, G. R. Language, thought and experience.Modern Language Journal, 1971,55, 212–222.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Hubel, D. M., & Wiesel, T. N. Receptive fields and functional architecture of monkey striate cortex.Journal of Physiology, 1968,195, 215–243.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Hunt, J. McV.Intelligence and experience. Ronald Press, 1961.

  7. Légendy, C. R. On the scheme by which the human brain stores information.Mathematical Biosciences, 1967,1, 555–597 (Cited by Scott, 975).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Rakic, P. Local circuit neurons.Neurosciences Research Program Bulletin, 1975,13, no. 3.

  9. Scott, A. C. Neurodynamics (a critical survey).MRC Technical Summary Report No. 1548 (Mathematics Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison), October 1975.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. O. Hebb.

Additional information

Paper prepared for reading at the Ciba Medical Horizons conference on MBD (minimal brain dysfunction), Omaha, Nebraska, April 2, 1976.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hebb, D.O. Physiological learning theory. J Abnorm Child Psychol 4, 309–314 (1976).

Download citation


  • Early Experience
  • Brain Damage
  • Learning Theory
  • Crucial Importance
  • Associative Learning