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How the environment & early life experiences shape our brain

This is Science Today. How does environment and early life experiences influence the development and function of our brains? Dr. Tallie Z. Baram of the University of California, Irvine, says our brain is designed to be influenced by the environment.

Baram:              Mainly because it is advantageous - this is pure Darwinism. The idea is that if you two little monkeys that are out there in the forest and they hear the horrible roar of the saber tooth tiger, monkey number one turns out to be breakfast for the saber tooth tiger. If monkey number two can learn, can change the way his brain cells function, this horrible stress that the saber tooth tiger roar created to the brain will strengthen the connections between brain cell will improve memory and learning - then this little monkey will never get eaten for breakfast or lunch and will be able to convey his or her gene to the next generation. So, there is a major evolutionary advantage to the brain being plastic and influenced by the environment.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.