In the context of television consumption and its opportunity costs the question arises how far experiencing mere representations of the outer world would have the same neural and cognitive consequences than actively interacting with that environment. Here we demonstrate that physical interaction and direct exposition are essential for the beneficial effects of environmental enrichment. In our experiment, the mice living in a simple standard cage placed in the centre of a large enriched environment only indirectly experiencing the stimulus-rich surroundings (IND) did not display increased adult hippocampal neurogenesis. In contrast, the mice living in and directly experiencing the surrounding enriched environment (DIR) and mice living in a similar enriched cage containing an uninhabited inner cage (ENR) showed enhanced neurogenesis compared to mice in control conditions (CTR). Similarly, the beneficial effects of environmental enrichment on learning performance in the Morris Water maze depended on the direct interaction of the individual with the enrichment. In contrast, indirectly experiencing a stimulus-rich environment failed to improve memory functions indicating that direct interaction and activity within the stimulus-rich environment are necessary to induce structural and functional changes in the hippocampus.