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(in physiology), one of the phenomena in the activity of the nervous system that improves an organism’s ability to adapt to the environment.
Switching can occur in various structures of the nervous system, for example, at the synapses; in the thalamus, where it participates in relay functions; and in the cerebral cortex, where it is involved with the formation of conditioned reflexes. Because of cortical switching, the interpretation of conditioned signals may change rapidly, depending on several factors, including the circumstances under which the signals are perceived. Thus, a conditioned stimulus, for example, the sound of a metronome, produces a feeding response when it is combined in the morning with the act of feeding, while during the day it promotes a defensive reaction when combined with electrical stimulation of an extremity. One signal thus can produce different conditioned responses, depending on the time of day. In this case, time is the factor that determines the conditioned response, as if it had the ability to switch one type of activity to another in the cerebral cortex.