In her laboratory at Princeton University’s Department of Psychology, Gould is determined to create a marmoset environment that takes full advantage of their innate intelligence. She doesn’t believe in metal cages. “We are housing our marmosets in large, enriched enclosures,” she says, “and with a variety of objects to support foraging. These are social animals, and it’s important to let them be social. Basically, we want to bring our experimental conditions closer to the wild.”
What struck me as I read this is perhaps this is what the ‘virtual’ worlds are slowly becoming . . . an environment designed to satisfy our true nature. Is the true nature of humanity the very things WOW satisfies? Is conflict and community at the core of who we really are?
Gould’s research has shown that the brain produces new neurons [say that five times fast . . . I’ll wait] when ‘happy’ and actually damages them when ‘unhappy’. This J is connected to stress.
Now, playing WOW, I have been happy often and seldom stressed. Which means my brain should have been producing new neurons all this time and making me if not smarter at least more adept at hiding my native stupidity.
Being low in a dominance hierarchy also suppresses neurogenesis. So does living in a bare environment.
WOW allows us to rise up and is anything but a bare environment. While there is a hierarchy and we start low, we are through out own efforts, like we wish for the poor, to rise up out of low ‘dominance’ and achieve the highest ranks regardless of our living circumstances.
In 1989, no one would have dared to imagine that the environment we live in can profoundly influence the actual structure of our brain, or that childhood stress might have permanent neurological effects.
So, is WOW the solution to poverty? If kids are given free access to these realms will their brains produce more neurons and will they grow smarter and then more successful?