February 28th, 2015
Some feel the need to explore more than others. This apparently random characteristic really makes a difference to personalities, a mice experiment shows. Those that like to be adventurous and have the capacity to do so, develop different brains than those who stay mostly in the same place.
German researchers looked at the behavior genetically identical mice show in the same environment and studied the development of their brains. They saw that the mice behaved differently and, as a result, formed different personalities. The mice increasingly differed in their behavior.
This was also seen in their brains, as investigator Gerd Kempermann explains: “Animals that explored the environment to a greater degree also grew more new neurons than animals that were more passive.” This generation of new neurons allows the brain to flexibly react to new information.
This experiment demonstrates perfectly what we already suspected: It’s not just genetic makeup nor is it only the environment that causes individual differences. It’s a combination. As the researchers say: an enriched environment fosters the development of individuality.
Photo: Flickr, Thompson Rivers
Source: German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases
Freund, J., Brandmaier, A., Lewejohann, L., Kirste, I., Kritzler, M., Kruger, A., Sachser, N., Lindenberger, U., & Kempermann, G. (2013). Emergence of Individuality in Genetically Identical Mice Science, 340 (6133), 756-759 DOI: 10.1126/science.1235294