Friday, February 06, 2009


THE CITY AND THE BRAIN


In this eclectically growing scroll of electrons I am often diatribing about the city/country schizodichotomy, in an admittedly subjective, tongue-in-cheek kind of way, based on personal experience and predilection, but it seems there is a scientific basis to my fugues after all...

"Now 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 subjects were then run through a battery of psychological tests. People who had walked through the city were in a worse mood and scored significantly lower on a test of attention and working memory, which involved repeating a series of numbers backwards. In fact, just glancing at a photograph of urban scenes led to measurable impairments, at least when compared with pictures of nature."

Tell me about it...

4 comments:

Alice said...

University of Michigan's Marc Berman says the mind is a limited machine, yet the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Davidson says his studies show brain plasticity and suggests that humans are capable of training themselves to be happy. Maybe these two should combine their efforts since it would appear that little can be done about the overcrowding that creates more and more urban settings.

ted said...

I believe it. I figured out that last year's bouts with depression and anger started around the time I stopped being self-employed and had to bike through crowded city streets again.

Miki and I thought our mountain walks were something we liked to do. I believe now that we really needed those walks.

Bob Brady said...

It's palpable to me in the few days I work in the city, and the attitude I have to assume there, that sloughs off when I return to natural calm, rich air, entire sky...

Project Hyakumeizan said...

Many thanks for this interesting post (and the link to the no less interesting article). Yep, I think Virgil had it sussed about two millennia ago:-

Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
atque metus omnis et inexorabile fatum
subiecit pedibus strepitumque Acherontis avari.
Fortunatus et ille, deos qui novit agrestis,
Panaque Silvanumque senem Nymphasque sorores?

Blessed is he whose mind had power to probe
The causes of things and trample underfoot
All terrors and inexorable fate
And the clamour of devouring Acheron;
But happy too is he who knows the gods of the countryside, knows Pan
and old Silvanus
And the sister Nymphs....

Happy too is he who knows the gods of the countryside. Especially in Japan....