Human Brain Neuron System

Discovering why our brains change

University of Richmond professor Kelly Lambert is forging new ground in understanding how our experiences and environment influence our brains’ ability to adapt — revealing important implications for modern mental health.

Lambert is fascinated by neuroplasticity, the study of how our brains change over time. In three decades of research, she has seen how our brains benefit when our bodies have to interact with our environment to achieve a goal. That’s why she’s worried that technological advances and modern conveniences might literally be weakening them.

Our brains are so clever that we have created a world where we don’t have to interact with the environment as much to get the output that we want. That may ultimately have a negative impact.

—Kelly Lambert

Lambert works with rats to explore her insights. Some of the rats in her studies have to dig for food; others — those she calls “trust fund rats” — have an easy time finding it. Some live in a very natural environment; others are in an artificial one. By comparing the levels of chemical indicators in their brains related to stress, she is revealing critical differences in brain function based on environment. Her insights are shining new light on some of the most significant issues in mental health today.

Dr. Kelly Lambert is a professor of behavioral neuroscience in the department of psychology in the School of Arts & Sciences and past president of the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society. Her research focuses on how experiences, lifestyles, and environments influence the brain’s ability to adapt.

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