Multipotentiality: A Statistical Theory of Brain Function—Evidence and Implications

  • E. Roy John


Most contemporary theories of brain function, strongly influenced by anatomical tradition, conceive of relatively discrete localization of sensory and motor function. In conditioning, new movements constitute the responses learned to the conditioned stimulus or signal for the behavior. As a logical consequence of the assumption that sensory perception is mediated by a localized sensory system and that movement is controlled by a localized motor system, most theories of learning are “connectionistic.” That is, they assume that the crucial event that takes place in learning is establishment of a pathway between the nerve cells in the brain that respond to the sensory cue and the nerve cells that control the learned response (Gerard, 1961; Hebb, 1949; Konorski, 1967). Memory of what was learned is composed of the connections newly established or facilitated during learning. Remembering consists of activity in these special pathways. Responses are determined by such activity.


Conditioned Stimulus Conditioned Response Sensory Stimulus Clinical Neurophysiology Wave Shape 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adametz, J. H. Rate of recovery of functioning in cats with rostral reticular lesions. Journal of Neurosurgery, 1959, 16, 85–97.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barlow, J. S., Morrell, L., and Morrell, F. Some observations on evoked responses in relation to temporal conditioning to paired stimuli in man. Proceedings International Colloquium on Mechanisms of Orienting Reactions in Man. Bratislava-Smolence: Slovak Academy of Sciences, 1967.Google Scholar
  3. Bartlett, F., and John, E. R. Equipotentiality quantified: The anatomical distribution of the engram. Science, 1973, 181, 764–767.Google Scholar
  4. Bartlett, F., John, E. R., Shimokochi, M., and Kleinman, D. Electrophysiological signs of readout from memory. II: Computer classification of single evoked potential wave-shapes. Behavioral Biology, 1975, 14, 409–449.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dambisio, A. R., Lima, A., and Damaslo, H. Nervous function after right hemispherectomy. Neurology, 1975, 24, 89–93.Google Scholar
  6. Dru, D., Walker, J. P., and Walker, J. B. Self-produced locomotion restores visual capacity after striate lesions. Science, 1975, 187, 265–266.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gerard, R. W. The fixation of experience. In J. F. Delasfresnaye, A. Fessard, R. W. Gerard, and J. Konorski (Eds.), CIOMS symposium on brain mechanisms and learning. Oxford: Blackwell, 1961.Google Scholar
  8. Hebb, D. O. The organization of behabior: Neu ropsychological theory. New York: Wiley, 1949.Google Scholar
  9. Hubel, D. H., and Wiesel, T. N. Receptive fields, binocular interaction and functional architecture in the cat’s visual cortex. Journal of Physiology (London), 1962, 160, 106–154.Google Scholar
  10. John, E. R. Higher nervous functions: Brain functions and learning. Annual Review of Physiology, 1961, 23, 451–484.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. John, E. R. Neural mechanisms of decision making. In W. S. Fields and W. Abbot (Eds.), Information storage and neural control. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C Thomas, 1963.Google Scholar
  12. John, E. R. Mechanisms of memory. New York: Academic Press, 1967.Google Scholar
  13. John, E. R. Summary: Symposium on memory transfer AAAS. In W. L. Byrne (Ed.), Molecular approaches to learning and memory. New York: Academic, 1970.Google Scholar
  14. John, E. R. Brain mechanisms of memory. In J. McGaugh (Ed.), Psychobiology. New York: Academic, 1971.Google Scholar
  15. John, E. R. Switchboard versus statistical theories of learning and memory. Science, 1972, 177, 850–864.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. John, E. R. A model of consciousness. In G. Schwartz and D. Shapiro (Eds.), Consciousness and self regulation: Advances in research, Vol. 1. New York: Plenum, 1976.Google Scholar
  17. John, E. R. Functional neuroscience. Vol. 2: Neurometrics: Clinical applications of quantitative electrophysiology. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1977.Google Scholar
  18. John, E. R., and Killam, K. F. Electrophysiological correlates of avoidance conditioning in the cat. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 1959, 125, 252.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. John, E. R., and Killam, K. F. Electrophysiological correlates of differential approach-avoidance conditioning in the cat. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 1960, 131, 183.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. John, E. R., and Kleinman, D. Stimulus generalization between differentiated visual, auditory and central stimuli. Journal Neurophysiology, 1975, 38, 105–1034.Google Scholar
  21. John, E. R., and Morgades, P. P. A technique for the chronic implantation of multiple movable micro-electrodes. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1969, 27, 205–208.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. John, E. R., and Morgades, P. P. Patterns and anatomical distribution of evoked potentials and multiple unit activity elicited by conditioned stimuli in trained cats. Communications in Behavioral Biology, 1969, 3, 181–207.Google Scholar
  23. John, E. R., and Morgades, P. P. Neural correlates of conditioned responses studies with multiple chronically implanted moving microelectrodes. Experimental Neurology, 1969, 23, 412–425.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. John, E. R., Ruchkin, D. S., Leiman, A., Sachs, E., and Ahn, H. Electrophysiological studies of generalization using both peripheral and central conditioned stimuli. Proceedings of 23rd International Congress of Physiologic Sciences (Tokyo), 1965, 4, 618–627.Google Scholar
  25. John, E. R., Shimokochi, M., and Bartlett, F. Neural readout from memory during generalization. Science, 1969, 164, 1519–1521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. John, E. R., Bartlett, F., Shimokochi, M., and Kleinman, D. Neural readout from memory. Journal of Neurophysiology, 1973, 36, 893–924.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. John, E. R., Bartlett, F., Shimokochi, M., and Kleinman, D. Elettrophysiological signs of the readout from memory. Behavioral Biology, 1975, 14, 247–282.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. John, E. R., Karmel, B. Z., Corning, W. C., Easton, P., Brown, D., Ahn, H., John, M., Harmony, T., Prichep, L., Toro, A., Gerson, I., Bartlett, F., Thatcher, R., Kaye, H., Valdes, P., and Schwartz, E. Neurometrics: Numerical taxonomy identifies different profiles of brain functions within groups of behaviorally similar people. Science, 1977, 196, 1393–1410.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. John, E. R., Karmel, B. Z., Prichep, L., Ahn, H., and John, M. Neurometrics applied to the quantitative electrophysiological measurement of organic brain dysfunction in children. In C. Shagass (Ed.), Psychopathology and brain dysfunction. New York: Raven Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  30. John, E. R., Prichep, L., Ahn, H., Brown, D., Easton, P., Karmel, B., Thatcher, R., and Toro, A. Neurometrics: Quantitative electrophysiological analysis for diagnosis of learning disabilities and other brain dysfunctions. In D. Otto (Ed.), Multidisciplinary perspectives in event–related brain potential research. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, EPA 600/9–77–043, 1978.Google Scholar
  31. Karmel, B. Z., Kaye, H., and John, E. R. Developmental neurometrics: The use of quantitative analysis of brain electrical activity to probe mental function throughout life-span. In A. Collins (Ed.), Minnesota symposia on child psychology: Vol. 11. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1978.Google Scholar
  32. Kleinman, D., and John, E. R. Contradiction of auditory and visual information by brain stimulation. Science, 1975, 187, 271–273.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Klinke, R., Fruhstorfer, H., and Finkenzeller, P. Evoked responses as a function of external and stored information. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1968, 26, 216–219.Google Scholar
  34. Konorski, J. Integrative activity of the brain. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967.Google Scholar
  35. Lashley, K. Mass action in cerebral function. Science, 1931, 73, 245–254.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lashley, K. In search of the engram. Symposium of the Society of Experimental Biology, 1950, 4, 454–482.Google Scholar
  37. Morrell, F. Effect of anodal polarization on the firing pattern of single cortical cells. Annals of New York Academy of Science, 1961, 92, 860–876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mountcastle, V. B. The problem of sensing and the neural coding of sensory events. In G. C. Quarton, T. Melnechuk, and F. O. Schmitt (Eds.), The neurosciences. New York: The Rockefeller University Press, 1967.Google Scholar
  39. Mountcastle, V. B., and Powell, T. P. S. Neural mechanisms subserving cutaneous sensibility, with special reference to the role of afferent inhibition in sensory perception and discrimination. Bulletin Johns Hopkins Hospital,1959, 105, 201–232.Google Scholar
  40. Otero, G., Harmony, T., and Ricardo, J. Polarity coincidence correlation coefficient and signal energy ratio of ongoing EEG activity. II: Brain tumors. Activitas Nervosa Superior, 1975, 17, 120–126.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Otero, G., Harmony, T., and Ricardo, J. Polarity coincidence correlation coefficient and signal energy ratio of ongoing EEG activity. III: Cerebral vascular lesions. Activitas Nervosa Superior, 1975, 17, 127–130.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Picton, T. W., Hillyard, S. A., and Galambos, R. Cortical evoked responses to omitted stimuli. In M. N. Livanov (Ed.)., Major problems of brain electrophysiology. Moscow: USSR Academy of Sciences, 1973.Google Scholar
  43. Ramos, A., Schwartz, E., and John, E. R. An examination of the participation of neurons in readout from memory. Brain Research Bulletin,1976, 1, 77–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ramos, A., Schwartz, E., and John, E. R. Evoked potential-unit relationships in behaving cats. Brain Research Bulletin, 1976, 1, 69–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ramos, A., Schwartz, E., and John, E. R. Stable and plastic unit discharge patterns during behavioral generalization. Science, 1976, 192, 393–396.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Regan, D. Evoked potentials in psychology, sensory physiology and clinical medicine. New York: Wiley, 1972.Google Scholar
  47. Riggs, L. A., and Whittle, P. Human occipital and retinal potentials evoked by subjectively faded visual stimuli. Vision Research, 1967, 7, 441–451.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ruchxin, D. S., and John, E. R. Evoked potential correlates of generalization. Science, 1966, 153, 209–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rusinov, V. S. Electroencephalographic studies in conditioned reflex formation in man. In M. A. B. Brazier (Ed.), The central nervous system and behavior. New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1959.Google Scholar
  50. Schwartz, E., Ramos, A., and John, E. R. Single cell activity in chronic unit recording: a quantitative study of the unit amplitude spectrum. Brain Research Bulletin, 1976, 1, 57–68.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stein, D. G., Rosen, J. J., and Butters, N. (Eds.). Plasticity and recovery of function in the central nervous sytem. New York: Academic, 1974.Google Scholar
  52. Sutton, S., Tueting, P., Zubin, J., and John, E. R. Information delivery and the sensory evoked potential. Science, 1967, 155, 1436–1439.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Thompson, R. F., Patterson, M. M., and Teyler, T. J. The neurophysiology of learning. Annual Review of Psychology, 1972, 23, 73–104.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Thatcher, R., and John, E. R. Functional neuroscience, Vol. 1: Foundations of cognitive processes. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1977.Google Scholar
  55. Weinberg, H., Grey-Walter, W., Cooper, R., and Aldridge, V. J. Emitted cerebral events. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1974, 36, 449–456.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Weinberg, H., Grey-Walter, W., and Crow, H. H. Intracerebral events in humans related to real and imaginary stimuli. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 1970, 29, 1–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Roy John
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryNew York University Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations