Nature saves the brain from stress

Stress resistance can be assessed by the activity of brain regions that are required to respond to stressful conditions. One such area is the amygdala, or amygdala. Previously, the amygdala was called the center of fear, then it turned out that it works not so much as a center of fear as a center of emotions in general (and recently other functions that are not directly related to emotions have been discovered in it). Under the same stressful conditions, someone’s amygdala will be more active, while someone’s will be less active, and the one who has it more active will experience stress more.

At the same time, it is known that people living outside the city have less amygdala activity than those who live in the city. Here the conclusion suggests itself that country life with meadows, forests, rivers, etc. makes us more stress-resistant. However, where is the cause, and where is the consequence, it is difficult to say right off the bat. It may well be that people with certain amygdala traits choose to live outside the city, while others with different amygdala traits prefer cities.

Employees of the Institute for Human Development Max Planck Societies set up an experiment in which several dozen city dwellers participated: they were asked to either walk through the forest for one hour, or also hang around a busy Berlin street for one hour. Brain activity before and after the walk was assessed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In an article in Molecular Psychiatry it is said that a walk in the forest calmed the amygdala.

The participants in the experiment, while they were lying in the fMRI machine, were shown photos of frightened faces – someone else’s fear always causes stress, but for those who walked through the forest, the amygdala reacted to someone else’s fear weaker. Similarly, she reacted less well to another stressful test, in which she had to solve a difficult arithmetic problem. But for those who walked along the city street, nothing changed in the amygdala, which is understandable: everyone who participated in the experiment lived in the city anyway, and the street was their usual “habitat”.

We wrote many times that the work of the brain, its cognitive functions depend on physical activity, that sports and physical education strengthen memory, save from stress, etc. Here, however, the anti-stress effect of walking cannot be attributed to the walk itself: people walked the same the same time in the city and in nature, and only a walk in nature helped reduce stressful brain activity. So if the goal is to calm the nerves, then it is better to walk outside the city, or at least in parks where the urban environment is not felt too strongly.

Well, if there is no way to go to the park, then you can just watch a video or photo of wildlife – as various studies show, photos and videos with waterfalls, coral reefs and flying birds help get rid of despondency and longing.

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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