Brain and Behavior

Impact of Environment on the Brain

How does learning change the brain?

More and more research is revealing the powerful ways that learning and experience shape the brain. While this is most true in childhood, the brain continues to be modified by experience throughout adulthood. Although genetics are crucially important in prenatal brain development, much of postnatal brain development is dependent on learning. In fact, every time the brain fires, it is slightly altered. One way that memory takes place is through a process known as long-term potentiation. The neurons fire in a particular pattern and the connections between the neurons involved are strengthened. Experience can change the brain in other ways as well. The receptor sites at a synapse can increase or decrease. New dendrites can branch out as can new axon terminals to form new synapses with nearby neurons. In these varied ways, the brain is very plastic.


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