Jack Orbach (2000) Continuing Evolution of Neuropsychological Theory. Psycoloquy: 11(048) Lashley Hebb (16)

Volume: 11 (next, prev) Issue: 048 (next, prev) Article: 16 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary
PSYCOLOQUY (ISSN 1055-0143) is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psycoloquy 11(048): Continuing Evolution of Neuropsychological Theory

Reply to Kolb on Orbach on Lashley-Hebb

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



Contributions of Hebb and Lashley to neuropsychological theory are reexamined.


cell assembly, central autonomous process, engram, equipotentiality, Hebb, Hebbian learning, Lashley, localization, memory trace, nativism, reverberatory circuit, Vanuxem Lectures
1. In his review of my book on Lashley-Hebb (1998, 1999), Kolb (2000)made a number of points that, I feel, deserve comment. First, he expresses disappointment that I did not include in my volume any of Hebb's post-1949 papers. I reprinted ten of Lashley's papers; why none of Hebb's? This is not the first time I have been taken to task for omitting something of Hebb's. For example, Donderi (1999) felt that I should have included a review of Hebb's book on the mind-body problem (1980). But, as Kolb himself pointed out, it is Lashley's views that are all but forgotten. Fifty years after the publication of Hebb's landmark monograph, I felt that students of neuropsychological theory should be awakened to Lashley's contributions. Moreover, I had already reprinted three of Hebb's latter-day papers in my earlier book on Lashley (1982). When planning my 1998 volume, I did consider including Hebb's presidential address to APA (1960) and his landmark paper with Thompson on animal behavior (1954). But I was dissuaded by space limitations. One has to set limits, and the limit I set myself was the date of Lashley's death, 1958. My principal aim in presenting the ten original papers of Lashley was to support my claim regarding theoretical priorities.

2. Second, Kolb reminds us of Hebb's role in developing Canadian neuropsychology. It is true that Hebb trained a number of students who became leaders in neuroscience in, and outside, Canada. I pointed that out in my 1999 book on p. 80. It is also true that Lashley had only a limited number of graduate students that he directed toward their PhD's. But we have to remember that his productivity in that regard antedated Hebb's by well-nigh a generation, and that he had limited access to graduate students during his years at the Yerkes Laboratories of Primate Biology in Orange Park, Florida. Nevertheless a good number of names come to mind. They include Stone, Landis, Jacobsen, Tsang, Krecheveski (Krech) and Birch. In later years, the docs and post-docs include Beach, Pribram, Semmes (Blum) and Chow. One post-doctoral was awarded the Nobel prize (Sperry) and last but not least, one of his PhD candidates was nominated for the Nobel Prize (Hebb). Not bad, I would say, for a small-town West Virginia boy who never had a formal course in psychology and was elected President of the APA in 1929 at the age of 39!

3. Third, Kolb writes that he found troubling my revisiting 'Lashley's lesson,' that synapses unexcited during original learning may show the effects of learning. He tells us that he can see absolutely no evidence favoring this view. But I cite instance after instance derived from Lashley's papers beginning in 1923. Kolb's own early work on interocular transfer is one of Lashley's favorite examples. Others include transfer of training in general, stimulus and response generalization and equivalence, and recovery of function after brain injury (see pp. 108, 109). I am with Kolb all the way when he urges a more thorough discussion of 'Lashley's lesson.' It is time.

4. I do not believe that "Hebb was somehow given too much credit" for neuropsychological theory. The experientially acquired cell assembly was indubitably his. And his use of it captured the imagination of the neuropsychological community. All I argue is that Lashley was the first to recognize the value of Lorente de N's reverberatory circuit for neuropsychological theory, even before Hilgard and Marquis did in 1940, and some 11 years before Hebb popularized it in the form of the cell assembly.


Donderi, D. C. (1999) The Unlearned Reverberatory Circuit: Lashley's Legacy to Hebb, and How Hebb invested it. 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/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.061

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

Hebb, D. O. (1960) The American Revolution. Amer.J. Psychol.,15, 735-745.

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

Hebb, D. O, & Thompson, W. R. (1954) The Social Significance of Animal Studies. In G. Lindzey (Ed) Handbook of Social Psychology, vol. 1. Reading Mass: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

Hilgard, E. R. & Marquis, D. G. (1940) Conditioning and Learning. NY: Appleton-Century.

Kolb, Bryan. (2000) Neuropsychology Evolving. Book review of Orbach on Lashley-Hebb. PSYCOLOQUY 11(025) ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/2000.volume.11/ psyc.00.11.025.lashley-hebb.12.kolb http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?11.025

Lashley, K.S. (1923) Studies of cerebral function in learning. VI. The theory that synaptic resistance is reduced by the passage of the nerve impulse. In Orbach, Jack (1998) The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb. MD: University Press of America.

Orbach, Jack (1982) Neuropsychology After Lashley. NJ: Erlbaum.

Orbach, Jack (1998) The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb. MD: University Press of America.

Orbach, J. (1999) Precis of: The Neuropsychological Theories of Lashley and Hebb. PSYCOLOQUY 10(029). ftp://ftp.princeton.edu/pub/harnad/Psycoloquy/1999.volume.10/ psyc.99.10.029.lashley-hebb.1.orbach http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.029

Volume: 11 (next, prev) Issue: 048 (next, prev) Article: 16 (next prev first) Alternate versions: ASCII Summary