Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Kelp gulls peck at a red spot on their mother's beak. Geese and cranes imprint on hang gliders. Presumably, these processes depend on sensory primitives (red spots, triangular shapes), and these are not learned (via e.g. reinforcement learning), but genetically set. Are there any current ideas of how (not why) these abstract, high-level sensory features are genetically encoded?

Naively, some pre-wired relationship between certain retinal neurone ("red"), higher neurons responsible for shape detection ("circular") and association cortices regulating a pre-specified behaviour is assumed.

share|improve this question
Is it consensus that my question is too "jargon"-heavy for this board? After all, I do not think I am using terminology inadequate to the question or at least not in that there is too much jargon (I understand it is possible I use the wrong terminology). –  user 49102 Jun 1 at 13:47
"For example what is a 'sensory primitive?'" -> For example "red spots, triangular shapes", as the text says right now. And not to disparage anyone, but I don't think terms like "reinforcement learning" would confuse anybody with a background in ethology or developmental neuroscience. Is it board policy to avoid terminology and phrase everything in simple English? I do not mean to be arrogant, but I'm surprised by your comment. –  user 49102 Jun 1 at 14:06

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.