PERREAULT Magazine AUG | SEP - Page 80

The first semester of my Freshman year at UC Berkeley, I took a class

that changed my life.

My professor’s name is

Marian C. Diamond

and her class was

The Brain and its Potential”.

I’ll never forget that first day of class. Marian stood in front of her blackboard like a science rock star; slim, athletic, with a blonde bouffant hairdo that made her look even taller than she was. Even more memorable was what was sitting on the desk in front of her. It was a flowered hat box.

As she welcomed us to class and started to tell us about the brain, Marian slowly and dramatically lifted the lid of the hat box, and with her gloved hands she carefully pulled out a real preserved human brain. She told us that what she was holding in her hands was the most complex structure known to mankind.

I was mesmerized. Marian described her groundbreaking work, which she began in the late 1950’s. She and her colleagues were trying to find evidence that the adult brain could change in response to the environment. To investigate this radical idea, they raised rats in what they called “enriched environments” with lots of toys, space and lots of other rats—it was like the Disney World of rat cages. Marian Diamond’s research demonstrated that compared to rats raised in “impoverished” environments with no toys, smaller space and only a few other rats, the outer covering of the brains of the rats raised in the enriched environments actually grew and got thicker. This was revolutionary; the prominent belief at the time was that adult brain could not change at all. Marian’s benchmark finding helped usher in a new era in the study of what we now call brain “plasticity” – or how the brain changes in response to the environment.


Perreault Magazine - 80 -

by Dr. Wendy A. Suzuky, Ph.D.



The importance of