New Research Discovers That Time Spent Among Trees May Aid In The Growth And Development Of Children’s Brains
As a child grows and develops, it is stated that the neurons in their brain shoot out like trees. Being in close proximity to this type of flora may actually aid in the process.
A long-term study of 3,568 students in London aged 9 to 15 found that individuals who spent more time near woodlands demonstrated enhanced cognitive performance and mental health during adolescence.
Other natural settings, on the other hand, such as grasslands, lakes, and rivers, did not appear to have the same effect.
“These findings contribute to our understanding of natural-environment types as an important protective factor for adolescents’ cognitive development and mental health and suggest that not every natural-environment type may contribute equally to these health benefits,” the authors write.
This is not the first time experts have discovered an odd correlation between the presence of trees and human mental health.
Green spaces in residential areas have been related to a lower incidence of mental health problems later in life in the United States and Denmark, according to nationwide epidemiological studies of children.
Similar research conducted in the United Kingdom discovered that youngsters who live in greener metropolitan neighborhoods have a stronger spatial working memory.
Why this continues to be the case is a puzzle.
While it is well established that enriched settings influence the human brain, it is yet unknown why green spaces – and particularly trees – appear to have such profound impact on young minds.
Indeed, some study indicates that green areas are associated with anatomical changes in the brain, such as increased white and gray matter, as well as beneficial changes in the amygdala, which aids in emotion regulation. These alterations may potentially account for some of the observed cognitive and mental health impacts.
However, it appears as though trees can perform functions that other types of flora cannot. Similar to the recent UK study, other researchers discovered that trees, rather than grass, are associated with improved mental health.
Perhaps the fractal patterns found in tree branches have something to do with it. Even as children, studies have shown that humans have an instinctive liking for certain forms, which may contribute to our minds being calmed and certain circuits in our brains being reactivated.
However, as with previous research on this subject, this latest one in London has limitations. Slightly more than half of the participants came from families where one or both parents held managerial or professional positions.
While children who grow up surrounded by greenery do perform better on cognitive tests than their peers, a 2019 article suggests that this does not always indicate trees are to blame. Socioeconomic issues can also impact child development, and we may be confounding the two.
“Children raised in greener neighborhoods exhibit better overall cognitive ability,” the 2019 study’s authors found, “but the association is likely accounted for by family and neighborhood socioeconomic factors.”
Greenery may also have an effect on our thoughts by giving a haven from the heat, the city’s noise, or even pollution.
There are simply too many variables to consider.
Although it is currently too early to determine whether exposure to trees makes youngsters smarter and whether that exposure lasts a lifetime, given how more urban our landscapes have become, it is worthwhile to investigate whether we might use trees to improve people’s lives worldwide.
Nature Sustainability published the study.