Endless Curiosity

September 8, 2009

Stimulating environments

Filed under: Psychology — Alec @ 1:08 pm

I’ve been reading Proust was a Neuroscientist, by Jonah Lehrer, and at one point he writes

Other scientists have discovered that antidepressants work by stimulating neurgenesis (at least in rodents), implying that depression is ultimately caused by a decrease in the amount of new neurons, and not by a lack of serotonin. A new class of anti-depressants is being developed that targets the neurogenesis pathway. For some reason, newborn brain cells make us happy.

What an intriguing idea.

When I was growing up the standard wisdom was that you were born with all the brain cells that you would ever have, and that they kept dying throughout your life – with alcohol being a great way to speed their destruction. Well, brain plasticity is all the rage these days, and current wisdom is that the brain creates new cells all the time (neurogenesis).

It seems that for maximum neurogenesis your brain needs a stimulating environment that allows it to learn new things. So there you have it. If you want to be happy, put yourself in an varied and stimulating environment and be curious: think and learn.

Of course, not everyone agrees, but it’s an interesting thought.

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