The Science Behind How Nature Changes Your Brain

Talking a walk amongst plants is good for you in many ways, but why? This questions recently bothered some neuroscientists and they set out to answer it. It turns out that exposure to nature changes the way blood flows in our brain in a way that makes us feel better.

Then the scientists randomly assigned half of the volunteers to walk for 90 minutes through a leafy, quiet, parklike portion of the Stanford campus or next to a loud, hectic, multi-lane highway in Palo Alto. The volunteers were not allowed to have companions or listen to music. They were allowed to walk at their own pace.

Immediately after completing their walks, the volunteers returned to the lab and repeated both the questionnaire and the brain scan.

As might have been expected, walking along the highway had not soothed people’s minds. Blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex was still high and their broodiness scores were unchanged.

But the volunteers who had strolled along the quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, according to their scores on the questionnaire. They were not dwelling on the negative aspects of their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

Read more.

Read More

Travel For a Better Brain

I just booked a flight to London and coincidentally came across an article that says that our brains can benefit greatly from exploring the world. A good way to start the day!

It turns out that the ability of the brain to handle new information is connected to well-being and that travel can get your bring working in new ways. It is also beneficial to step out of your comfort zone, which travelling general encourages. So you should book that trip you’ve been thinking about!

In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity. But it’s not just about being abroad, Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” In other words, going to Cancun for a week on spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative. But going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.

Read more.

Read More

Keep Your Brain Healthy by Living in Walkable Neighbourhoods

Just when you think there couldn’t be more reasons to live in and build walkable communities another one pops up. We already know that walkable communities are safer, more environmentally healthy, and better for everyone’s health. We can now add to that
list that walkable places are good for keeping of mental issues that occur later in life!

The work builds on Watts’ long attention and study of health behaviors, prevention strategies, and bio-behavioral processes associated with cognitive decline and dementia as the University of Kansas (KU). “I’ve always been interested in why people choose to engage in healthy behaviors or not,” Amber Watts said. “I had been very focused around issues of the individual until I met and started working with architects who study how the physical world around us influences our choices. I found that fascinating, and I wanted to incorporate that into my work about health behaviors.”

This is supportive information for green city planners and city infrastructure layouts. More green planning in neighborhoods so that people will be able to make healthful choices is something we are lacking in much of the US. Good ambiance, sidewalks, and mixing of uses in a neighborhood can go a long way.

Read more.

Read More

New Research: Brains Do Heal Themselves

After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones. But the repair doesn’t happen quickly enough to allow recovery from degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). Siddharthan Chandran walks through some new techniques using special stem cells that could allow the damaged brain to rebuild faster.

Read More

Artists Better Protected Against Cognitive Decline

People who engage in music or visual arts are better protected against dementia and other cognitive decline issues. Nows the time to pick up that instrument you keep meaning to learn how to play!

Artists compared with non-artists are better protected, he added. “Due to their art, the brain is better protected [against] diseases like Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and even strokes. They have more reserve in their brain in order to give functions.

“So [we know], based on other neuroscience studies, that art in any of its forms uses different neuronal avenues inside the brain to do their work. And the activity, the talent and the art per se gives reserve when the brain requires that reserve.”

Read more at CBC.

Read More