Neuroscience of Environmental Enrichment

Environmental enrichment is the stimulation of the brain by its physical and social surroundings. Brains in richer, more stimulating environments have higher rates of synaptogenesis and more complex dendrite arbors, leading to increased brain activity. This effect takes place primarily during neurodevelopment, but also during adulthood to a lesser degree. With extra synapses there is also increased synapse activity, leading to increased size and number of glial energy-support cells. Environmental enrichment also enhances capillary vasculature, providing the neurons and glial cells with extra energy. The neuropil (neurons, glial cells, capillaries, combined together) expands, thickening the cortex. Research on rodent brains suggests that environmental enrichment may also lead to an increased rate of neurogenesis.

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