Jack Orbach (1999) Lashley's Unlearned Reverberatory Circuit;. Psycoloquy: 10(063) Lashley Hebb (7)

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PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 10(063): Lashley's Unlearned Reverberatory Circuit;

Reply to Donderi on Orbach on Lashley-Hebb

Jack Orbach
Department of Psychology
Queens College
Flushing, NY, 11367



Donderi (1999) finds the treatment of Hebb in (Orbach 1998) deficient because of the omission from consideration of Hebb's (1980) "Essay on Mind." However, my object was to review Hebb's 1949 contributions and to compare them with those of his teacher, Lashley, who died in 1958. In my book, the story more or less ends there.


cell assembly, central autonomous process, engram, equipotentiality, Hebb, Hebbian learning, Lashley, localization, memory trace, nativism, reverberatory circuit, Vanuxem Lectures
1. It is undeniable that I enjoyed reading Donderi's (1999) critical review of my Lashley-Hebb book (Orbach 1998, 1999). I found it stimulating, accurate and fair. However, I have a number of comments to make.

2. In planning my book on Lashley-Hebb, I chose to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Hebb's 1949 landmark book, "The Organization of Behavior." I did not undertake an ultimate analysis of Hebb's contributions to neuropsychological theory. Donderi judges that my book is weaker than it might have been had I not ignored Hebb's (1980) "Essay on Mind." Although to discuss it would have been beyond the scope of my original intentions, I take Donderi's criticism seriously. Truth to tell, had I to do it over again, I would not omit Hebb's final theoretical statement.

3. Both men, Lashley the teacher and Hebb the student, neglected to include in their theorizing at least three important conceptual developments of the 1940's:

    a. transmitter substances as the mechanism of transmission at
    synapses that might provide another mechanism to sustain neural
    activity in the cerebral cortex in the absence of sensory

    b. cortical inhibitory neurons to bolster cell assembly theory;

    c. the reticular activating system as another attentional mechanism.

Hebb did acknowledge these omissions over the years in successive editions of his "Textbook of Psychology" (Hebb and Donderi 1994) but they were never systematically incorporated in revising his theory. Peter Milner (1999) has attempted to do that [and his book will shortly be accorded Psycoloquy Multiple Book Review too].

4. When Lashley reviewed Hebb's ms. in 1947, "Hebb must have been offended by the short shrift that he received from Lashley," I wrote (p. 62). Donderi regards this as a speculation on my part, no more than "highly dubious emotional spice." He finds no evidence to support my speculation. I made this statement in response to Hebb's notation at the top of the first page of Lashley's critical comments, "These 2 (yellow) sheets are Lashley's commentary (he didn't approve)." I felt that the number 2 indicated that Hebb was offended that his ms. was given short shrift. Seeing that Lashley reviewed only the first 96 pages of a 300 page ms., what was he to think?

5. Donderi is annoyed by my parenthetical style. "Orbach spurns the scholarly footnote..." He is right. In narrative writing, I find the scholarly footnote style an abomination. If something is worth saying, it should be said in the body of the text. If it is not worth saying, leave it out. Don't give it second-class status in a footnote. On this stylistic matter, Donderi and I disagree.

6. Donderi believes that the present-day experimental evidence has "reduced the significance of some of Lashley's early experimentally based criticism of localization..." I agree. But nobody has yet even attempted to address the evidence embodied in "Lashley's lesson" (beginning in 1924) that synapses unexcited during learning can show the effect of learning. It is now three-quarters of a century later. Come on, Hebbians, it's time to hear from you on this matter. I challenge you!


Donderi, D. C. (1999) The Unlearned Reverberatory Circuit: Lashley's Legacy to Hebb, and How Hebb invested it. Book review of Orbach on Lashley-Hebb. PSYCOLOQUY 10(061) ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/1999.volume.10/ psyc.99.10.061.lashley-hebb.6.donderi http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?10.061

Hebb, D. O, (1949) The Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory. NY: Wiley.

Hebb, D. O. (1980) Essay on Mind. NJ: Erlbaum.

Hebb, D. O. and Donderi, Don C. (1994) Textbook of Psychology, fourth edition, revised. Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publ. Co.

Milner, P.M. (1999) The autonomous brain. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.

Orbach, J. (1998) (Ed.) The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb. University Press of America

Orbach, J. (1999) Precis of: The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb. PSYCOLOQUY 10(23). ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/1999.volume.10/ psyc.99.10.029.lashley-hebb.1.orbach http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/cgi/psyc/newpsy?10.029

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