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nature and brain health

Living in the city can raise your stress levels and risk of depression, but finding even a little urban green space can make a big difference.

New research from Stanford University suggests that spending a little time in nature actually changes your brain activity, leading to less anxiety. As Gretchen Reynolds reports in the New York Times, Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford, measured the effect of a 90-minute nature hike on 38 adult city dwellers and found that brain activity in their subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain focused on “morbid rumination,” was lower than those who walked along a nearby highway.

Those who experienced a more natural environment were less likely to dwell on the negative aspects of their lives, Reynolds reported. The results suggest that getting out into nature can be an simple way to improve the moods of urban residents.

For more on the effect nature can have on your moods, see “Nature Quest” in our June 2006 issue.

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