There’s strong evidence that exposure to nature can improve patients’ recovery time(1), and that short “micro-breaks” spent looking at images of nature can improve attention levels and work performance(2), but now a recent paper from Gregory Bratman of Stanford University has attempted to document the effects that exposure to nature can have on our brains themselves.
The cognitive neuroscience study used brain scans and questionnaires to determine the effects that a walk through either a natural area near the Stanford campus, or down a busy road in California, had on the cognitive function of study participants.
The questionnaire was designed to measure the participants’ tendency towards negative thinking, which has been linked to depression(3). Brain scans were performed both before and after the walk, focusing on a region of the brain known as the subgenual prefrontal cortex – an area associated with thought patterns linked to depression.
Less Likely To Develop Depression
The study found that individuals who walked through nature were less prone to thought patterns associated with depression.
But what was of particular interest to researchers was the fact that brain scans showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex in the participants who spent time in nature(4).
“This provides robust results for us that nature experience, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases, of mental illnesses like depression,” said one of the study’s lead researchers(5).
Urbanization And Mental Illness
The implications of this study are significant – there is already a demonstrated link between urbanization and mental health problems like anxiety and depression(6).
With 50 percent of the human population of Earth living in urban areas, many billions of people are exposed to stressors that are less common in rural areas.
For example, waking up to the sound or a garbage truck outside your window may seem like a minor annoyance, but it can have a negative effect on your psyche – especially when combined with dozens of similar annoyances throughout the day.
The study authors speculate that natural environments like forests and parks allow for “positive distractions” from these daily stressors – actively helping to counteract negative thought patterns that can contribute to mental illness like depression and anxiety.
Brain Scan Controversy
While all of this may make sense to anyone who’s ever spent a prolonged period of time living in a city, there is some controversy about the validity of brain scans as a means of anticipating mental illness.
Certainly, illnesses like anxiety and depression can have many causes – there are not only environmental factors, but genetic and lifestyle factors at play as well(7).
But the study authors hope that the results of their research can help shed some light on how our environments can contribute to the development of these illnesses. Certainly, it couldn’t hurt most of us to make sure we experience nature every once in a while.[mks_toggle title=”sources” state=”close “]
- Phosphates Artificially Added to Dairy And Cereals For Improved Flavor Can Harm Your Kidneys
Phosphates are artificially added to a number of food products, including dairy and cereal products. These artificially added phosphates cause …
- Study Shows That Eating Protein in Equal Amounts Throughout The Day Is Better For Muscles
Go to any fitness and bodybuilding website and scroll through the articles, and you’ll find hundreds or even thousands talking about …
- Eating Foods High in Vitamin E Can Help Protect and Repair Damaged Immune Cells
Oxidative stress is well known to have a negative impact on your immune system(1) – which is a big part …
- No Evidence of Aloe Vera Found in the Aloe Vera at Wal-Mart, CVS
Aloe vera is one of the most popular home remedies throughout the Americas. While it used to be a folk …
- Having Trouble Sleeping? It’s Not Your Fault! Scientists Find “Wide Awake” Gene That Sabotages Sleep
Are you struggling to have a good night’s sleep? Are you the kind of person that spends their nights lying …
- Here’s Why Washing Your Dishes By Hand Is Less Clean And Efficient Than You Think
Although dishwashers have been prevalent for well over a century, many people still rely on washing their dishes by hand, …
- Innovative Technology Allows Parkinson’s Patients To Write And Draw Without Shaking
For many people living with Parkinson’s disease, any task that requires motor skills can be a major barrier. This can …
- Cuba Developed a Lung Cancer Vaccine And It’s Now Heading to The U.S. For Clinical Trials
For the past 55 years, a US-led trade embargo on Cuba has ensured that technological advances made by the country …
- Two Common Food Additives Linked To Obesity and Gut Inflammation (They’re Often Found in Ice Cream!)
Two common food additives known as emulsifiers – compounds which preserve foods like mayonnaise and stop them from separating – could …
- Doctors Are Using Megadoses of Vitamin D to Shorten Hospital Stay And It’s Working!
Vitamin D is commonly thought to help boost the immune system(1), but due to lack of exercise and limited sun …
- Here’s What Happens To Your Body When You Sit Down For 11 Hours or More a Day
Studies that show the negative effects of sitting for extended periods of time are still fairly new, but the evidence …
- Alzheimer’s Disease May Start Long Before Even The Earliest Symptoms Become Apparent
When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, early detection can make a huge difference in determining the course of a patient’s …
- New Technology Helps Stimulate The Immune System to “Relentlessly Attack” Cancer Cells
When it comes to breast cancer, the best offense is a good defense – early detection, quickly followed up by intensive …
- New Blood Test Helps Detect Breast Cancer Five Years Before It Develops With Amazing Accuracy
Breast cancer is a problem much more serious than most of us realize! Did you know that: 1 in 8 …
- What Happened To This Family After They Started Eating Organic For 2 Weeks Straight Is Amazing!
While numerous studies have been done on the subject of pesticides in food and their impact they can have on …