More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. Cities have both health risks and benefits, but mental health is negatively affected – mood and anxiety disorders are more prevalent in city dwellers and the incidence of schizophrenia is strongly increased in people born and raised in cities.

Although these findings have been widely attributed to the urban social environment, the neural processes that could mediate such associations are unknown. Recent studies shed some light on the topic. German researchers searched for objective evidence that city living affects the brain.

Healthy young adults who were raised, or currently live, in urban or in rural areas were enrolled; they performed two types of arithmetic tests under imposed social stress (being told during testing that they were performing poorly) and another cognitive test while under no social stress.

The brain activation was measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging. During testing – but not during stress-free testing – activation of the amygdala (fear response) was correlated closely with the size of the city or town in which a person currently resided. Activation of another part of the brain regulating amygdala also correlated tightly with the size of the city in which a person currently resided.

In turn activation of that part of the brain correlated strongly with upbringing in a large city. These results were unchanged by adjustments for many other possible factors such as age, education, income, and marital status.

Overall, in stressful situations, city dwellers exhibited different brain activations than did rural residents. The studies suggest that two parts of the brain that are central to the stress response are activated differently by stress, based on whether people currently live in or were raised in urban versus rural areas.

Good health and blessings

Joanna Sochan
Holistic Health and Lifestyle Therapist
Natural and Lifestyle Solutions for Chronic Diseases

Source: Panaxea International

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