Cognition: 5 basic concepts to enhance learning

What is Cognition

What is Cognition

The modern word ‘cognition’ dates back to the 15th century, where it meant “Thinking and awareness” actually has its roots back to Latin noun, ‘Cognito’ derived from the verb “cognosco” a compound of “con” (“with”) and “gnosco” (“to know”) which is to ‘get to know.’ 

We think that our Cognition works like any personal computer and process information logically with genetic programming. However, the capacity and capabilities of the brain are much more than logical information processing.

Cognition has a physical basis in the brain, with over 87 billion neurons in a healthy human brain. These Neurons can have up to 10,000 connections with other neurons. All of this makes it an incredibly complicated organ.

The purpose of Cognition is to help us understand information about the environment around us and interact safely with our surrounding, as the sensory information received from our five senses is enormous and complex Cognition is needed to filter all this information down to its minimum and mandatory.

The Mental action or process of accumulating knowledge and understanding it through experience thought and the senses are referred to as Cognition.

Principally Cognition is Steering our thoughts and behaviors. Discrete Brain circuits in our brain stimulated by Neurotransmitter controls them.

Several brain chemicals play significant roles in regulating cognitive processes, including dopamine, noradrenaline (norepinephrine), serotonin, acetylcholine, glutamate, and GABA. 

Many experts argue that its Cognition makes us genuinely Human and that everything that comes with it comes with our preferences, prejudices, intuition, fears, and what makes us the individuals we are.

Animal Cognition

Animal Cognition

We are not the only ones who show Cognition; Animals also demonstrate a range of fascinating cognitive abilities. They amaze us with their human-like abilities.

Everyday, Animals face challenges of searching for food, coming back to their nest/cave, and protect them from a predator. Solving these problems involves processing information, sensing the environment, to making decisions based on available information.

Chimps and gorillas exhibit insights and planning; crows use tools, elephants teach each other. Honey bee (Apis mellifera) dances wildly to share an abundant food source’s distance and direction.

“You think, therefore you are.”

– Rene Descartes.

What is the Cognitive Process?

Cognitive Processes use existing information, knowledge, and sensory inputs to generate new knowledge. These cognitive processes include

learning, language, attention, memory, and perception.

“Our cognition works to our benefit through our ability to solve problems.”

Types of Cognitive Processes:

Learning

We, Human, Starts learning at birth and continues until death due to continuous interactions between people and their environment. 

It might even begin before; Here in India, we have a rich tradition of playing harmonious music, reading, or hearing ancient Vedic wisdom and stories to the expectant mother. It helps in keeping the mother calm and happy. It also believes that it will ease the little ones’ gestation journey and positively influence life after birth. Before birth environmental sound, is creating a reaction in many newborns.

The sound patterns of babies’ cries.

The two diagrams show the sound’s intensity as a black curvature over time, in a 1.2-s frame. The wider the curves (i.e., the higher the amplitude), the more intense the sound. The upper diagram shows the sound pattern of a typical cry for French newborn babies. The cry’s highest intensity is at the end (rising from left to right). The lower diagram shows the sound pattern of a typical cry for German newborn babies. Here, unlike in the French example, the cry is more intense at the beginning (falling from left to right). These two different crying melodies are similar to the sounds of the two languages, French and German, which appear to be learned before birth.

The ability to learn is present in humans, animals, and some machines. There is evidence for some learning in individual plants as well. We accumulate Skills and knowledge by repeated experiences, but some learning is immediate and induced by a single event (e.g., pinched by rose flower throne ). The mental changes induced by learning often last a lifetime.

Whether we perfect our free throw over the basketball court or pick up a new language, one needs to form new neural pathways among neurons in our brain to learn anything. In neuroscience, the term for this process is Neuroplasticity: Our brain’s ability to create, prune, modify and strengthen connections between neurons.

So the interesting point is that our brain changes physically and chemically when we learn something new. when we try to repeat or recall something that we have learned before, those changes ( Neural Pathways ) are reactivated in the brain. 

To improve the free throw ( New learning ), you need to refine and strengthen the free-throw pathway in your brain. The way we do this is called repetition or practice, which gradually strengthens the Neural pathways to make it feel like no effort activity to the brain.

Language

Language is the ability through which we can transmit our ideas across the vast reaches of space and time. We can transmit knowledge across minds, and clearly, it arises from the need of humans to communicate and socialize their ideas, thoughts, intent, and actions. 

When it comes to language, there is a lot to philosophize about. One is whether thought provokes language or it is the language that creates thoughts, and another matter where linguistics contemplate is the question of meaning. What do words like cook, spinach, or table? What do they mean? How do we know what they mean? And who gets to decide?

We learn and know the meaning of words by hearing the way other members of the community use them. Eventually, our brains piece together what’s common between them in recognition.

A language can be defined as a structured system of communication used by humans consisting of spoken language (speech) and sign language (Gestures). The writing system comprises a visual or graphical representation in almost every language.

Linguistics is known as a scientific study of language. Since Gorgias and Plato in ancient Greek, it has been debated that how words represent experience, and there is a correlation between language and thoughts.

Estimates of the number of human languages in the world vary between 5,000 and 7,000. 

Cuniform is the first known form of Written Language
Cuneiform_script2.jpg:derivative work: Yjenith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for speech and language and is the dominant hemisphere. Visual information and spatial processing are getting interpreted broadly in the right hemisphere.

Wernicke’s area handles understanding and processing speech and written language. Just behind your ears, it is located in the temporal lobe. The temporal lobe is also the region where the sound is processed.

Studies have shown cognitive benefits beyond language in the case of older language learners. Learning a language increases the amount and density of grey matter, the volume of white matter, and also its connectivity.

Memory

The brain’s neural function, which is involved in encoding, storing, and retrieval when needed, is known as memory. Retention of information over time is necessary for many cognitive processes as well as to decide future actions. For the development of language, relationships, or personal identity, memory is mandatory.

“Neurons which fire together wire together.” 

In a specific part of the brain, neurons make memories by firing together.

That might be one mechanism for remembering multiple pieces of information at the same time. This complex system allows us to make memories. 

Cognitive process Memory can be conceptualized in terms of types, stages, and processes. We have Implicit and Explicit memory, and in terms of stages, we have sensory, short-term, and long-term memory. If we see memorization as part of the cognitive process, then it can be seen as encoding, storing, and retrieval on demand.

The Cerebellum, amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex are the main parts of the brain involved with memory.

The amygdala is part of the brain’s limbic system where emotions are given meaning, remembered and attached to associations, and creates emotional memories. It is a collection of cells near the base of the brain regulating emotions such as fear and aggression. It also plays a critical role in how memories are stored because storage is influenced by stress hormones as well as the consolidation of memory to long term memory. Growing researches show that the amygdala facilitates encoding memories at a deeper level when the event is emotionally charged.

Perception:

Perception cognitive function is in the primary visual cortex, situated in the occipital lobes at the back of the head. The brain begins to assemble something that looks like an image to our conscious awareness.

Dictionary definition of perception:

“The way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”

Dictionary definition of Reality:

“The world or the state of things as they actually exist… existence that is absolute, self-sufficient, or objective, and not subject to human decisions or conventions.”

Perception is Reality

So Reality and perception lie in different domains. Perception is a cognitive process entirely in the mind in which mental gym can turn any belief into Reality. Reality is entirely outside of the mind and can not be changed easily. 

Attention

Attention is the potential capability to choose and concentrate on the relevant catalyst. Attention is the cognitive process that makes it possible to position ourselves towards relevant stimuli and respond to them. This cognitive ability is crucial and is an essential function in our daily lives.

Attention

Driving is the best example of attention and how it involves all our attentional sub-processes. During Driving, we have to be awake ( Arousal), putting full focus over the road ( Focused attention ) for very long periods ( sustained attention ). We have to carry out all of the other motoring activities during Driving, like pedals, turning the wheel, and changing gears (divided attention).

The prefrontal cortex in the frontal lobe is responsible for the attention cognitive process.

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