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The Impact of
Environmental and
Chemical Factors
PEGGY SIEGEL
EDU417: COGNITIVE STUDIES CAPSTONE
INSTRUCTOR: COLLEEN LINDECKER
JUNE 16, 2014
Neurotransmitters
Located in the brain are chemicals known as Neurotransmitters that,
when released, allow impulses to pass from one nerve cell to another.
Each neurotransmitter has a direct or indirect affect on neurons
located in a certain part of the brain.
The first neurotransmitter was found in the central nervous system and is
called Acetylcholine. although there are not many acetylcholine
receptors in the brain,"outside the brain acetylcholine is the major
neurotransmitter controlling the muscles. Body muscles can be divided
into the skeletal muscles system which are under voluntary control, and
the smooth muscles of the autonomic nervous system which controll the
heart, stomach, etc. not under voluntary control. The autonomic
nervous system is further subdivided into sympathetic and
parasympathetic divisions. Direct innervation of skeletal muscles is due
to acetylcholine, as is the innervation of smooth muscles of the
parasympathetic nervous system"(Best).
Serotonin and Dopamine
Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that are involved in
controlling mood, appetite, and sleep, as well as memory and
learning.
"The activity of serotonin arises in the brainstem from clusters of
neurons known as the raphe nucleus. From the brain, serotonin
neurons extend to virtually all parts of the central nervous system
making the branching of the serotonin network the most expansive
neurochemical system in the brain"(Byrd).

"There are some regions of the brain that increase our motivation
and interest in activities. Often referred to collectively as the reward
center, these regions are activated by dopamine. And the more
motivated and interested we are in an activity the more dopamine
is released and the better we remember it"(Burns).
Neuroplasticity and Environmental
Factors and Movement
Neuroplasticity - "Convergent evidence from both human and
animal studies suggests that physical activity facilitates
neuroplasticity of certain brain structures and as a result cognitive
functions"(Htting&Rder). What this means is that physical excerise
changes certain structures of the brain as well as having a positive
effect on the way the brain functions.
Environmental Factors - Genetic and environmental factors can
have a negative impact on a child's motor development."family
features, such as socioeconomic status, mothers educational level,
and the existence of siblings can affect childrens motor
competence'(ECE Journal). Today children are spending more time
in pre-school centers and it has been found thet motor
development is enhanced when these pre-school centers use a
developmentally adequate movement program.

Neuroplasticity and Nutrition

Neuroplasticity - There is a relationship between what a mother eats
while pregnant and the eating habits of their children after they are
born.
Beverly Muhlhausler, Ph.D., from the University of Adelaide in Adelaide,
Australia led a study on how junk-food eaten by mother's that are
pregnant has an effect on the eating habits of their children.
The study was done on mice where one group of pregnant mice was
given a diet of junk food and the other group was given regular mice
chow. after the baby mice had been weaned they were given a
choice of the kind of food they wanted. The baby mice from mother's
that ate a junk-food diet where more inclined to choose a diet that was
high in sugar and fat. "The brains of the baby mice from the
experimental group also had higher levels of the receptor for opioids
than the babies from the control group, suggesting that the high fat
and high sugar diet leads to changes in the fetal brains reward
pathway, altering food preferences"(Buczynski).

Environmental Factors and Nutrition
Children that grow up in an environment where they spend a lot of
time watching television are likely to be influenced by the
commercial advertisements for food. The child can develop food
insecurities if her home does not include the type of food she sees
on TV. The child becomes less interested in the nutritious food her
family serves and more interested in the food shown on the
television. This can lead to obesity due to the large amounts of food
that the commercials depict as appropriate to consume. In
addition, "It follows that children of obese parents likewise have a
tendency to become obese themselves. In the same way, picky-
eaters merely acquire the same habits by emulating a member or
members of the family"(Cosmato).
Neuroplasticity and Environmental
Factors and Sleep
Neuroplasticity - How does sleep affect neuroplasticity?
It has been found that sleep is very important in the retention of motor skills.
Studies comparing people who have slept to those who have not has shown
that motor skills are much improved in the people that slept. In addition, it was
discovered that the people who slept, "showed not just superior performance,
but also all kinds of changes in their brain. It showed a high correlation of
connectivity between premotor cortex and motor cortex, or supplementary
motor cortex and motor cortex in those individuals
who had slept"(physicaltherapy.com).
People who have Parkinson's disease have many problems with sleep and
therefore, have difficulity learning motor skills.
Environmental Factors - The main environmental factor that has an effect on
sleep is temperature. Temperature affects body and brain activity and we tend
to sleep better when it is cool as opposed to hot. Light is the next thing that has
an impact on sleep and we seem to sleep better if there is a mix of light and
dark. Sleep is also affected by sound which means that we need to have quite
surroundings when we sleep. Finally, the surface that we sleep on needs to be
smooth as opposed to rough in order for us to sleep well.
Neuroplasticity and Environmental
Factors and Technology
Neuroplasticity - Technology can change our brains and our brains can change
technology. there are differing opinions, "Some cognition experts have praised
the effects of tech on the brain, lauding its ability to organize our lives and free
our minds for deeper thinking. Others fear tech has crippled our attention spans
and made us uncreative and impatient when it comes to anything
analog"(Hiscott). studies have been done where people who grew up in the 50's
and watched black and white TV, their dreams were in black and white, where
as younger people involved in the study, who grew up watching color TV almost
always had dreams that were in color. this is neuroplasticityat work, showing us
its ability to change because of new experiences.
Environmental Factors - There are new technological factors that will have an
impact on the environment of many colleges and universities. there will be an
increase in cost for the structure of the universities as well as the cost of
increased staff. A rise in the number of students that are computer literate will
create a demand for staff members who understand and are able to cope with
new and changing technologies.
Neuroplasticity and Environmental
Factors and Learning
Neuroplasticity - Repetition of task: The brain will create new
connections when theres new learning, but these connections must
be reinforced and strengthened or they deteriorate. The repetition
should be daily, or at least many times week. (Jensen).
Environmental Factors - A supportive and informative learning
environment is important.
Environment can have an impact on concentration and motivation.
"Checklist to ensure good physical environment
Is the room the right size?
Is the temperature comfortable?
Are there distractions(noise visual distractions inside or outside)?
Is the seting adequate, and how should it be arranged?
Does the audiovisual equipment work"(Hutchinson)?
Refrences
Best, Ben. Brain Neurotransmitters. http://benbest.com/science/anatmind/anatmd10.html.
Buczynski, Ruth. (2011). Your Brain is What You (and Your Mother) Eat. http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/brain-mother-eat/.
Burns, Martha. (2012) Dopamine and Learning: What The Brains Reward Center Can Teach Educators. Scientific Learning. Scienti fic
Learning Corporation. http://www.scilearn.com/blog/dopamine-learning-brains-reward-center-teach-educators.php.
Byrd, Andrea. Serotonin and Its Uses. Serendip 1994-2014. Last Modified: Monday, 07-Jan-2002.
http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro99/web1/Byrd.html.
Cosmato. Donna. (2010).Environmental Effects on Safety and Nutrition of Children. Environmental Health.
http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/87687.aspx.
ECE Journal. (2010). Environmental Factors Affecting Preschoolers Motor Development. Early Childhood Education Journal. Volume 37,
Issue 4 , pp 319-327. Publisher Springer Netherlands.
Hiscott, Rebecca. (2014). 8 Ways Tech Has Completely Rewired Our Brains. http://mashable.com/2014/03/14/tech-brains-
neuroplasticity/.
Htting, K. & Brigitte Rder. (2013). Beneficial effects of physical exercise on neuroplasticity and cognition. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral
Reviews. Volume 37, Issue 9, Part B, Pages 22432257.
Hutchinson, Linda. (2003). Educational Environment. US National Library of Medicine.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1125718/
Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the brain in mind (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA. Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
Retrieved from the ebrary.
Physicaltherapy.com January 8, 2014
How does sleep affect neuroplasticity?
http://www.physicaltherapy.com/ask-the-experts/sleep-and-neuroplasticity-2229