Posted on Tue, 27 Mar 18
Green space, referred to as vitamin G, has been associated with better mental health. A remarkable new study found that exposure to greenness was positively associated with brain size in school children.
With increasing urbanisation and the destruction of natural environments there is growing concern that our relatively recent disconnect from nature could have untoward health effects. Indeed, previous studies have reported important benefits of time in nature for emotional and cognitive health.
Few, if any, studies, however, have explored the effects of green space on brain structure. So, to see if there is a link researchers determined lifelong exposure to residential surrounding greenness in a group of school children living in Barcelona and used 3-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (3D MRI) to see if there was an influence on differences in brain volume.
The 3D MRI revealed that “lifelong exposure to greenness was positively associated with gray matter volume in the left and right prefrontal cortex and in the left premotor cortex and with white matter volume in the right prefrontal region, in the left premotor region, and in both cerebellar hemispheres.”
This is important because the prefrontal cortex is associated with memory and cognitive function. Remarkably, higher brain volumes in these regions did indeed predicted better working memory and reduced inattentiveness in these children.
“Our findings provide new perspectives on how connections with the natural environment could potentially contribute to brain development,” concluded the study investigators.
Dadvand P, Pujol J, Macià D, et al. The Association between Lifelong Greenspace Exposure and 3-Dimensional Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Barcelona Schoolchildren. Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Feb 23;126(2):027012.