Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The promise of environmental neuroscience

The physical and social environment that surrounds us has a profound impact on our brains and behaviour. This impact is so fundamental that a complete understanding of neural mechanisms cannot be developed without taking into account the extensive interactions between neurobiology, psychology, behaviour and the environment.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: The elements of environmental neuroscience.


  1. 1.

    Markham, J. A. & Greenough, W. T. Neuron Glia Biol. 1, 351–363 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Kelly, T. K., Ahmadiantehrani, S., Blattler, A. & London, S. E. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 285, 20180160 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Berman, M. G., Jonides, J. & Kaplan, S. Psychol. Sci. 19, 1207–1212 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Allen, J. G. et al. Environ. Health Perspect. 124, 805–812 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Belsky, J. et al. Mol. Psych. 14, 746–754 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Lewin, K. Principles of Topological Psychology. 4–7 (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1936).

  7. 7.

    Bonam, C. M., Bergsieker, H. B. & Eberhardt, J. L. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 145, 1561–1582 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Kotabe, H. P., Kardan, O. & Berman, M. G. J. Exp. Psychol. Gen. 145, 1713–1727 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Hagerhall, C. M. et al. Nonlinear Dyn. Psychol. Life Sci. 19, 1–12 (2015).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Calhoun, J. B. Population density and social pathology. Sci. Am. 306, 139–148 (1962).

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Zénon, A., Solopchuk, O. & Pezzulo, G. Neuropsychologia 123, 5–18 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Essex, M. J. et al. Child Dev. 84, 58–75 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We dedicate this work in memory of one of M.G.B.’s mentors, Dr. Stephen Kaplan (1936–2018), who inspired a lot of this thinking. This work was supported in part by a grant from the TKF Foundation to M.G.B., the John Templeton Foundation grant for the University of Chicago Center for Practical Wisdom to H.C.N., a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-1632445) to M.G.B., as well as an internal grant from the University of Chicago to M.G.B. We thank K. Schertz and E. Layden for their help in creating Fig. 1.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marc G. Berman.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Berman, M.G., Kardan, O., Kotabe, H.P. et al. The promise of environmental neuroscience. Nat Hum Behav 3, 414–417 (2019).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing