I am a bit late posting this one, but it is a fascinating article about the effect that Urban environments have on the brain:
“Scientists have begun to examine how the city affects the brain, and the results are chastening. Just being in an urban environment, they have found, impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control. While it’s long been recognized that city life is exhausting — that’s why Picasso left Paris — this new research suggests that cities actually dull our thinking, sometimes dramatically so.
“The mind is a limited machine,”says Marc Berman, a psychologist at the University of Michigan and lead author of a new study that measured the cognitive deficits caused by a short urban walk. “And we’re beginning to understand the different ways that a city can exceed those limitations.”
One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature, which is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil.
This research arrives just as humans cross an important milestone: For the first time in history, the majority of people reside in cities. For a species that evolved to live in small, primate tribes on the African savannah, such a migration marks a dramatic shift. Instead of inhabiting wide-open spaces, we’re crowded into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic, and millions of strangers. In recent years, it’s become clear that such unnatural surroundings have important implications for our mental and physical health, and can powerfully alter how we think.” – How the city hurts your brain – Boston.com.
Also see the recent “All in the Mind” episode “Greening the Psyche” in which the same topic is explored from the discipline of Environmental Psychology:
Intuitively we sense that nature relaxes us — even small pockets of green in the concrete urban jungle seem to make a difference. But finding good scientific evidence for how and why has been more difficult — until now. Crime rates, academic performance, aggression and even ADHD. Could a bit of greening make all the difference? And, ecology on the couch — a self described ‘ecotherapist’ with novel techniques.