Enriched environment helps many aspects of brain health

Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata). Jigokudani...
Image via Wikipedia

I just got back from a three week trip that included attending the largest neuroscience conference (society for neuroscience conference), which in itself was an enriched environment with thousands of people to interact with as they presented their posters. There were a large number of neuroscience posters testing the effects of an enriched environment (see previous posts here, here and here). The researchers found that an enriched environment increased neurogenesis (birth of new neurons) in non-human primates, increased the ability to handle a novel stress, and even in one study increased the lifespan of the animals (compared to a group in a non-enriched environment). The evidence keeps accumulating of just how good an enriched environment is for us.

What is interesting though is that these novel environments also increase the stress response of these animals. Now normally we think of stress as being very bad for us. However, this is more typically true for chronic stress, and even more so when the organism has no control over the stress. But it appears now from a large number of studies that the right amount of stress at the right frequency is very beneficial to our brain health and our overall health.

In the near future I will return to this idea and give further details of what the researchers find. But the take home message for better brain health is keep exposing yourself to an enriched environment, keep learning and exploring new things (including maybe  playing and swimming with your mates in a new pool as shown in the photo above :)

to your better brain health