1) To find out if there is evidence in favor of one of Hebb's claim. In is book "The Organization of Behavior" he claimed that cell assemblies are the physiological foundation of thought. According to Sebastian Seung, in his book "Connectome: How The Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are", a thought is an association of ideas.

Is there evidence that support Hebb's claim?

2) In addition to (1) I want to know in which other ways Hebb has contributed to neuroscience. I have provided some examples below.

So, please leave links to research papers that support any other claim he has made.


The Organization of Behavior

"The Organization of Behavior - A Neuropsychological Theory", by D.O. Hebb, is one of the classics in the field of neuroscience, as you may know.

Hebb wondered about the nature of thought, and how ideas might be represented in the brain.

He was puzzled as to why the intelligence of some individuals remained intact after brain surgeries, where a large part of their brain was destroyed.

In his book, it is suggested, that these high IQ scores were

"due to a conceptual development which brain damage does not easily reverse."

Given these observations, Hebb asked:

"... what is a concept physiologically ...?"

Which then prompt Hebb to claim that cell assemblies were the physiological basis of a concept/thought.

Hence, my question:

Is there any scientific evidence that support that the cell assembly is the basis of thought/a concept?


Some of his ideas have been confirmed; for example, in "Biological Psychology",Breedlove, Watson, Rosenzweig, teach that memory storage requires neuronal remodeling. This finding is grounded on Hebb's observation, which was confirmed by Kelso and Brown, 1986, that

"Ensembles of neurons, or cell assemblies, linked via synchronized activity of these Hebbian synapses, could then act together to store memory traces."

The above observation is related to the maxim:

"cells that fire together wire together."

Hebb's hypothesis about how synaptic connections grow stronger or weaker in response to experience gave rise to the idea of Hebbian synapses.

A Hebbian synapse is a synapse whose strength depends on its effectiveness in driving the postsynaptic cell; for example, cells during visual deprivation do not fire together; consequently, they do not drive the postsynaptic cells. In turn, the synapses get weaker, i.e., less sensitive. In contrast, if cells are stimulated by the visual field, cells fire together, driving postsynaptic cells. This in turn strengths synapses.


Biological Psychology: An Introduction to Behavioral, Cognitive, and Clinical Neuroscience, Sixth Edition, Breedlove

Organization of Behavior - A Neuropsychological Theory, Hebb

Connectome: How The Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, Sebastian Seung

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am unclear on the purpose of the second question in relation to the first. Perhaps it makes sense to focus this question on just the first, and ask the second (in case still interested) in a second post? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Jul 6, 2018 at 16:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What do you mean by thought exactly? Are you talking about how objects in the world could be represented in the brain or meta-cognition of internal states in the brain? $\endgroup$
    – syntonicC
    Jul 6, 2018 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ SyntonicC - A thought is an association of ideas. $\endgroup$
    – user19721
    Jul 6, 2018 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ Rather than adding an 'edit' section which states that you are not going to make any edits, could you please just edit the question so that it becomes a cohesive whole, or not comment on it at all? 'Edit' sections are discouraged. P.s. at a glance I do not understand the edit. I have the impression it is not in line with my recommendation of removing the second question, but adding yet another question? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Jul 10, 2018 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


Hence, my question: Is there any scientific evidence that support that the cell assembly is the basis of thought/a concept?

This paper Thinking in circuits reviews this matter in detail, and its references can provide more related scientific evidence.

Question: What is the neurophysiology of a thought?

I think the following papers can provide some current information about the neurophysiology of thought:

1.How neurons make meaning

2.Brain Networks and Cognitive Architectures

3.Language and thought are not the same thing

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While well-sourced, this is not an answer; Could you attempt to provide a synopsis that answers the question? Reference-only answers are more of a comment. Yet, +1 for your research efforts. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jul 7, 2018 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry; I can't. This subject is a very big, detailed, and still advancing subject. I'm studying it too but not proficient to the level that I can write a good synopsis. As the poster of this thread asked for links to related matter, I just did what I could. I hope the abstracts of these papers can provide fairly good synopses on various aspects on the issue he'd like to know. $\endgroup$
    – user287279
    Jul 8, 2018 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ Should we close the question? Questions should not be overly broad. This one seems to be. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Jul 8, 2018 at 10:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I’m rather new on this site and don’t quite know the rule/regulation about which question should be closed. Would like to leave it to experienced people here (including you, who have 14,000+ reputation) who have more expertise and certainly better judgement on this matter. $\endgroup$
    – user287279
    Jul 8, 2018 at 11:18
  • $\begingroup$ @AliceD Instead of editing this post, which would have ended with too many changes, I a created a new post to clarify what I was asking. Here's the link: [psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/20161/… $\endgroup$
    – user19721
    Jul 8, 2018 at 23:07

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