Factors and theories on two effects of the environment on physiological processes, supported by research studies, which investigate both effects will be further evaluated and discussed in this essay. It is understood that certain properties of the environment can disturb or have negative connotations on physiological processes such as hormones, neurotransmitters, but in specific, the human brain. Consequently, the relationship between the environment and physiology is often said to be bidirectional, where environmental enrichment changes the cerebral cortex and therefore the brain changes our experiences and behavior.
The two effects of the environment on physiological processes that will be discussed include, enrichment of certain environments on brain plasticity, and the observation of experienced actions on the activation of mirror neurons.
The first effect of an environment on physiological processes is know as brain plasticity. The brain's ability to rearrange its connections with its neurons; that is the changes that occur in the structure of the brain as a result of learning or experience (exposure to different environments). The changes that can take place are related to the challenges of the environment and thus represent an adaptation to it. Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize neural pathways based on new experiences.
The brain has the ability to reorganize itself and form new connections between neurons. Plasticity occurs every time something new is learnt. Brain plasticity is explicitly shown after brain injury when the brain reorganizes and forms new connections with healthy neurons to compensate for the functions of the damaged area.
A sample study, which investigates the effects of a deprived or improved environment on neuroplasticity is an experiment conducted by Rosenzweig and Bennet (1972). In this classic study, Rosenzweig, Bennet & Diamond wanted to see if changing the level...