Mark Rosenzweig, pioneer in brain plasticity, learning and hearing, has died at 86
By Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations | 03 August 2009
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BERKELEY — Mark R. Rosenzweig, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, whose early studies paved the way for today's recognition of the brain's ability to grow and repair itself, died July 20 at his home in Berkeley from kidney failure. He was 86.
A prolific researcher, writer and French-speaking internationalist, Rosenzweig collaborated with some of the greatest minds in neuropsychology at Harvard University, UC Berkeley and the Louis Pasteur University in Strasbourg, France.
At UC Berkeley, Rosenzweig collaborated with biochemist Ed Bennett, psychologist David Krech and neuroanatomist Marian Diamond on studies that provided early evidence of brain plasticity - the now-well established notion that neural pathways change throughout our lives as we grow and learn. In addition, his earlier research into auditory perception also laid the groundwork for modern, noninvasive hearing tests.
"Rosenzweig's investigations were rigorous, groundbreaking and continue to be cited in all current accounts of brain development and plasticity, though they were conducted half a century ago," said Stephen Hinshaw, chair of UC Berkeley's Department of Psychology. "If anyone deserves the term 'pioneer,' he does."
Through extensive studies of laboratory rats at UC Berkeley in the 1950s and '60s, Rosenzweig and his colleagues were able to show that "environmental therapy" can stimulate brain growth at a cellular level not only in children, but also in adults. For example, he found that rats living in an "enriched environment" with stimulating interactive tasks performed better at learning activities than those in passive, impoverished conditions.