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Healthy for our brains: Those who live in the forest can process stress better


Nature close to home: Living near the forest has an impact on the brain
A stay in the green promotes health. It is even better if you live in a place that is close to meadows and forests. Because, according to a new study, nature close to home has a positive impact on our brain.

The best way to relax is in nature
Increasing work pressure and stress endanger health. Relaxation and rest are important for people. The best way to switch off is to go into nature. Because that's where most people can relax best. It is even better to live close to nature. Because then you can process stress better. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research has now shown that.

City dwellers are at higher risk of mental suffering
Noise, air pollution and many people in confined spaces: City life can cause chronic stress.

City dwellers are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia than rural residents, the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research reports in a statement.

In comparison, city dwellers show a higher activity of the almond kernel than rural dwellers - a small region inside the brain that plays an important role in stress processing and the reaction to dangers. But which factors can have a preventive effect?

A team of scientists headed by psychologist Simone Kühn has now investigated the influence of local nature such as forest, urban green or water areas and fallow land on stress-processing brain areas such as the almond kernel - also called amygdala in specialist circles.

Relationship between place of residence and brain health
“Research on brain plastic supports the assumption that the environment can shape both the brain structure and its function. We are therefore interested in which environmental conditions have a positive effect on brain development, ”explained first author Simone Kühn, who led the study at the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research and is now working at the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE).

“From studies among rural people, we know that living close to nature is good for your mental health and well-being. So we looked at how it is with city dwellers. "

In fact, the scientists found a connection between place of residence and brain health in the study published in the scientific reports.

Urban green spaces with no impact on the brain regions examined
Those city dwellers who lived close to the forest increasingly showed signs of a physiologically healthy structure of the amygdala and may therefore be better able to deal with stress.

This effect persisted even if differences in educational qualifications and income levels were excluded.

However, no connection between urban green or water areas as well as fallow land and the brain regions examined could be demonstrated.

The available data cannot be used to determine whether living near the forest actually has a positive effect on the amygdala or whether people with healthier amygdala visit residential areas near the forest.

However, against the background of previous knowledge, the scientists believe the first explanation is more likely. In order to be able to prove this, further progress studies are required.

By 2050, almost 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities
The participants in the study came from the Berlin Age Study II (BASE-II) - a follow-up study that examines the physical, mental and social conditions for healthy aging.

A total of 341 older adults between the ages of 61 and 82 could be won for the study.

In addition to thinking and memory tasks, the structure of stress-processing brain regions - especially the amygdala - was measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In order to be able to investigate the influence of the nature close to home on these brain regions, the scientists combined the MRI data with geographic information on the place of residence of the test subjects.

"Our study examines the connection between urban features and brain health for the first time," says co-author Ulman Lindenberger, director of the developmental psychology research department at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

It is expected that by 2050 almost 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities. The results could therefore be important for urban planning.

First of all, however, it is important to check the observed connection between the brain and the proximity of the forest in further studies and other cities, said Ulman Lindenberger. (ad)

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