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Discuss Environmental and Physiological Effects on Cognition

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Introduction

´╗┐In the past, people primarily related physiological processes to be influenced by genetics only and therefore it was largely believed that the brain was fixed. Now, it is said that certain effects of the environment can affect physiological processes. It can be induced that the there is a bidirectional relationship between both the environment and physiology as cognition can affect biology and vice versa. The two effects of the environment on physiological processes that will be discussed include the enrichment of certain environments on brain plasticity and that higher levels of melatonin contribute to seasonal affective disorder. In Rosenthal?s experiment, he hypothesized that seasonal depression is due to high melatonin in the body was due to a lack of light. He therefore conducted light therapy to help patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). There was a selected 29 patients of 2000 who reported suffering from depressions in fall and winter who contacted Rosenthal?s team to be a part of this treatment. ...read more.

Middle

In Rosenzweigs and Bennets (1972) study, rats were placed in two different environments. The independent variable was the type of environment the rats were exposed to. One environment was stimulating which contained enrichment items such as toys and the other was deprived with no form of entertainment. These rats spent about 30-60 days in their respective environments and were killed at the end for a post-mortem study. This allowed researchers to dissect and measure the cortexes. The results were that rats that lived in the stimulating environment had a thicker cerebral cortex and heavier frontal lobe than the rats that lived in the deprived environment. This experiment, while demonstrating that a rat?s brain is literally shaped by the environment, is not 100% conclusive as it lacks ecological validity. Even though rats may be mammals, the findings cannot be wholly generalized to humans as the brain and environmental inputs differ between humans and animals such as rats. ...read more.

Conclusion

Correlation may not be causation in this bidirectional ambiguity problem. To fully confirm her findings, Maguire would theoretically have to take 40 guys and force 20 of them to learn ?the Knowledge? test and measure the hippocampus before that. This form of longitudinal study would not be time efficient, as it would take an incredibly long time of 1 to 2 years. It is simply something that could be expanded upon in order to further develop Maguire?s original study. Despite this limitation, Maguire?s experiment is convincing as she also conducted other tests by looking at the brain scans of bus drivers and trainee taxi drivers to vary her subjects so that it wouldn?t be limited to only a certain group. In the end her study was groundbreaking as her finding showed that physiological processes do affect human brain plasticity. In conclusion, the two discussed effects of the environment on physiological processes are enrichment on brain plasticity and climate effects on melatonin and behavior. With evidence provided by supporting studies and theories, it can be stated that there is a bidirectional relationship between the environment and physiological processes. ...read more.

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