most scientific studies involving animals such as rats, the
animals are kept in individual houses, to minimize variation
in what each animal experiences during the course of the experiment,
and also to reduce the risk of disease passed from animal
to animal. Such a sterile environment is, of course, very
different to what the animal would experience in nature.
by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain
Some studies provide the test animals with "enriched
environments". In these cases, animals may be housed
together in a colony, and may be provided with toys and opportunities
for exercise and social interaction. They may also receive
handling by humans and other forms of unusual or stimulating
experience. Scientific studies have shown that animals placed
in enriched environments show increased brain growth and better
capacity for learning than animals housed in sterile environments.
These results have been taken as evidence for the "use-it-or-lose-it"
theories of brain function: that is, that people (and animals)
with active, stimulating lifestyles maintain brain function
better than those experiencing less stimulation.
Further reading: H. van Praag and others, "Neural consequences
of environmental enrichment," in Nature Reviews Neuroscience,
December 2000, vol. 1, pages 191-198.
Further reading: "Use it or