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Being Outdoors May Change the Way Your Brain Works, Study Says

Being Outdoors May Change the Way Your Brain Works, Study Says
From TIME - February 2, 2018

Getting outside may not only change your perspectiveit could actually alter the way your brain works in some unexpected ways, according to a small new study.

Your brain seems like it has to work harder and its less effective when its outside, explains Kyle Mathewson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alberta in Canada and the lead author of new research published in the journal Brain Research.

For the study, Mathewson, along with graduate student Joanna Scanlon, monitored the brain activity of 12 people as they listened to a series of tones. Everyone was directed to press a button when they heard one of two sounds. This task was administered twice: first while sitting still inside a dim, quiet lab, then while riding a bike outside along a street. The goal was to see how the brain functions in the two environments, and if its changed by an everyday outdoor activity, like bike riding.

They found, somewhat surprisingly, that while people were outside, their brains werent responding as robustly to the task at hand, perhaps because their attention was taxed by competing stimuli. A type of brain wave seen when the mind is at rest or meditating, which is commonly observed in the lab, all but disappeared in fresh air, Mathewson says.

Outside, there are traffic sounds, and the sights of traffic, and all these people around you, and trees and birds and the wind and the cold, Mathewson says. All these extra sensations are kind of competing with the task that youre doing, forcing the brain to work harder to achieve the same result.

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