Environmental conditions strongly affect brain plasticity


During development, experience continuously interacts with genetic information to shape and optimize neuronal circuits and behaviour. Therefore, environmental conditions have a powerful impact on the brain. To date, accumulating evidence shows that raising animals in a so-called “enriched environment” elicits remarkable effects on the brain across molecular, anatomical, and functional levels when compared to animals raised in a “standard cage” environment. In our article, we provide a brief review of the field and illustrate the different results of “enriched” versus standard cage-raised rodents with examples from visual system plasticity. We also briefly discuss parallel studies of enrichment effects in humans. Collectively, these data highlight that results should always be considered in the context of the animals’ environment.

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