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 “]
- Diabetics Are 4X More Likely To Develop Frozen Shoulder Syndrome (You Need To Know About This!)
What is frozen shoulder syndrome and what is its connection with diabetes? New research from the American Diabetes Association has …
- Starbucks Unveils Sugar-Loaded Frappucino With 400% The Daily Recommended Intake of Sugar
With huge coffee chain Starbucks unveiling six brand-new frappuccino flavors(1), even die-hard Starbucks haters are undoubtedly tempted to try some …
- 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 …
- Natural Compound Found in Green Tea Helps Kill Oral Cancer Cells Without Harming Healthy Cells
According to the American Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer this …
- Shocking Study Reveals That Nearly 70% of People on Antidepressants Don’t Have Depression!
How many of your friends and family are taking antidepressants–either OTC or prescription medications? How many of them really need …
- Video Game Developers Made This Virtual Forest For Both Alzheimer’s Patients and Their Caretakers
Many caretakers and family members of people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia can struggle to understand …
- Prescription Drugs Used To Treat Diabetes Can Cause Severe Joint Pain, FDA Warns
The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that a certain class of diabetes drugs may cause severe …
- Eating Vegetables and Proteins Before Carbs Helps Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels In Check
A new study published in the Journal of Diabetes Care says that how, in addition to what, you eat may …
- Studies Reveal THIS Raw Food Could Be ‘The Answer’ To Resistant Superbugs (And It’s Sweet!)
Antibiotic resistance is a major issue facing healthcare providers today, giving rise to the prevalence of “superbugs” that can’t be …
- Your Gut Bacteria Produces a Whopping 90% of All Your Body’s Serotonin (a.k.a. The Happy Hormone)
Serotonin, a well-known neurotransmitter which has a significant role to play in mood disorders, migraine disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and …
- Drinking 450mL of Beet Juice Every Day Can Help Improve Cognitive Function, Study Finds
Beet juice may not be popular for its taste, but its health benefits are serious business, according to a recent …
- 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 …
- Muscle Supplements Like Creatine or Androstenedione Increases Your Risk of Testicular Cancer
Supplements are all the rage these days! From vitamin supplements for normal people to multivitamins for pregnant mothers to protein …
- Scientists Discover That Living Near Trees Is Good For Your Health
It’s been shown that there are significant cognitive and psychological benefits to being exposed to nature, but in a recent …
- Mom Discovers That Treating Her Son With Topical Steroid Was ‘Melting’ His Skin
When Stephanie Smith took her young son to the doctor, she didn’t realize she was starting what would become a …