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Brain Actions and Influences

Environment or Biological?  

6 members have voted

  1. 1. Is the brain, and subsequent actions, affected by the environment or is it purely biological?

    • Environment
    • Biological
    • Mix of both

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Biology is a major factor in brain development (just ask any animal), but the environment has a significant role too. Obviously any direct physical damage will have an effect, and so will nutrition, the actions of others, and the actions of self.


In fact quite a bit of the brain's development will depend on the choices that brain itself makes. However, would that be considered an effect of the biology or the environment?

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Interesting point about nutrition, never thought of that... Couldn't the brain's functions be purely biological because the way it developed would give it a response to a certain stimuli? Say some people are more prone to depression because of shape and development of a certain part of their brain which controls the release of chemicals therefore their environment becomes a trigger but the cause is really a biological based reaction

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eionmac, what is the point of a brain without an environment? iNow is perfectly correct in what he says. I think the debate is the extent to which nature and nurture both contribute to brain development.


Recent research on early brain development holds several implications for parents, teachers, health professionals, and policymakers. This report, based on the proceedings from a 1996 national conference on the importance of early brain development for the nation's future well-being, highlights major findings, summarizes their implications for policy and practice in education and human services, notes areas of debate, and points to future research areas. Part 1, "Breakthroughs in Neuroscience--Why Now?" describes the development of new research tools enabling the study of the brain, the social and ideological context for current research, and new interest in the brain across disciplines. Part 2, comprising the bulk of the report, discusses the following key lessons learned from the research: (1) development hinges on the interplay between nature and nurture; (2) early care has a long-lasting impact on development, the ability to learn, and the ability to regulate emotion; (3) the brain has a remarkable capacity to change, but timing is crucial; (4) there are times when negative experiences or absence of appropriate stimulation are more likely to have serious and sustained effects; and (5) there is substantial evidence for the efficacy of early intervention.



Also, I think that it has been known for a while now that the brain is not a complete tabula rasa (blank slate).

Generally people now recognize the fact that most of the brain is indeed preprogrammed and organized in order to process sensory input, motor control, emotions and natural responses. These preprogrammed parts of the brain then learn and refine their ability to perform their tasks. The only true clean slate in the brain is the neo-cortex. This part of the brain is involved in thought and decision-making and is strongly linked with the amygdala. The amygdala is involved in responses such as fight or flight and emotions and like other parts of the brain is largely "pre-programmed," but has space to learn within its "programming". The amygdala is important in that it has a strong influence over the neo-cortex. There is much debate as to whether the amygdala prevents the neo-cortex from being defined as a clean slate.

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jimmy, I understand fully that early intervention does affect "the ability to learn and regulate emotions" however, the biological and genetic factor must not be undermined. If a child did not have a receptive brain to such education, or if they genetically have a trait that has been passed to them to not respond as much to such stimuli then the child would not learn as much. Would it be acceptable to say that environment only affects us by setting off certain behaviors biologically encoded in our DNA? We have yet to understand why humans sleep, what forms personalities, the subconscious, and other extremely important parts of human life so to say this question has been answered is not correct, in my opinion.

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To reiterate other posters genes only allow for rough plans. They generally do not encode sufficient information for complex behavioral traits. As such interaction with the environment are required to create functions. So the genes may set certain trajectories, however interaction with the environment is required to produce complex traits (as e.g. personalities). This is the simple basis for the "it is both" answer.

Or for a thought experiment: take identical twins, bring one up normally, put the other in a torture chamber for 20 years. Guess who is more likely to have personality disorders.

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