Early Sensory Experiences Shape Brain Structure and Function
Nov 13, 2016SAN DIEGO — Environmental enrichment, sensory stimulation, and sensory deprivation all shape the connections and organization in the brain, in addition to affecting behavior, as shown by new research presented at Neuroscience 2016, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
The brains of animals, including humans, adapt throughout the course of their lifetimes. Every experience changes the brain in some way, but sensory experiences in particular profoundly influence brain development. And those that occur very early in development carry the most impact on brain structure and function.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Rats raised in a natural, outdoor environment show differences in brain organization and behavior from rats raised in standard laboratory cages (Leah Krubitzer, abstract 807.12, see attached summary).
- Mice exposed to excessive sensory stimulation early in life are more impulsive and susceptible to cocaine (Jan-Marino Ramirez, abstract 392.10, see attached summary).
- The auditory brain structure of a person deaf from birth appears the same as that of a hearing person (Ella Striem-Amit, abstract 48.09, see attached summary).
The research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as other public, private, and philanthropic organizations worldwide. Find out more about sensory development at BrainFacts.org.