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Sep 8, 2022

How does nature nurture the brain?

Posted by in category: neuroscience

After a 60-minute walk in nature, activity in brain regions involved in stress processing decreases. This is the finding of a recent study by the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Living in a city is a well-known risk factor for developing a , while living close to nature is largely beneficial for mental health and the brain. A central brain region involved in stress processing, the amygdala, has been shown to be less activated during stress in people who live in , compared to those who live in cities, hinting at the potential benefits of nature. “But so far the hen-and-egg problem could not be disentangled, namely whether nature actually caused the effects in the brain or whether the particular individuals chose to live in rural or urban regions,” says Sonja Sudimac, predoctoral fellow in the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience and lead author of the study.

To achieve causal evidence, the researchers from the Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience examined in regions involved in stress processing in 63 healthy volunteers before and after a one-hour walk in Grunewald forest or a shopping street with traffic in Berlin using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results of the study revealed that activity in the amygdala decreased after the walk in nature, suggesting that nature elicits beneficial effects on related to stress.

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