The research of German scientists provided evidence showing that the brain of metropolitan and rural residents perceives stressful situations differently. Urban dwellers respond to them significantly more painfully than inhabitants of villages and small towns. Moreover, their neurophysiological response to tensio is so intense that it can result in destructive modifications in the brain.
The city and the countryside are two very different worlds. Instead the noise of leaves the city has crashing motorways,instead of grass and trees – jungle of concrete skyscrapers, and instead of a little circle of pals – thousands of indifferent strangers in the streets and subways. There isn’t any doubt that the people who grew up in a quiet backwater are strikingly different from the urban dwellers. In asserting this, we mean habits, pace of life, and possibly some psychological characteristics. However lately German researchers have discovered that differences are far deeper. The brain of city dwellers functions differently than the brain of people living in rural locations.
The differences observed don’t speak in favor of the city life. Scientists have discovered earlier that among those born and raised in the cities the risk of schizophrenia is doubled.Even though the mechanisms of occurrence of this mental disorder are still poorly understood, in this case the numbers speak for themselves. This isn’t surprising, and the risk of anxiety disorders in city residents is 21 percent higher than that of rural residents. City dwellers suffer from mood swings nearly 40 percent more frequently than rural residents. However current results astonished even seasoned scholars. Staff of the University of Heidelberg in Germany and McGill University in Canada, through the method of functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) have investigated the response to tension in individuals from various locations. FMR technologies enables recording the activity of one or another location of the brain.
In this case, the goal of the scientists was to find out how the brain of the experiment participants reacts to a stressful situation. Fifty volunteers tackled arithmetic issues while being timed. The experimenters deliberately produced a sensation of concern in the subjects when it comes to their capability to cope with the task. Furthermore to modifications in the brain activity, modifications in the heart rate, blood pressure and the release of particular “stress” hormones also served as indicators of stress.
Participants in the experiment had been divided into three groups: rural residents, residents of small towns with populations in the tens of thousands, and residents of large cities with populations over 100 thousand people. Subjects from various groups revealed remarkable differences in response to stress.
Firstly, under stress, urban dwellers displayed excessive activity of almond-shaped glands. Amygdala (situated one in every hemisphere of the brain the temporal lobe) is a portion of the limbic system responsible for regulating the functions of internal organs, instinctive behavior, emotions, memory, cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Malfunction of the|with the amygdala is presumed to be the main trigger of mental disorders for example autism, depression, post-traumatic shock and phobias. (Incidentally, patients whose amygdala is destroyed display total absence of fear).
“This gland is sort of a danger sensor in the brain and as a result is related with anxiety and depression,” said Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg with Heidelberg University.
Volunteers from significant cities showed hyperactivity in another part of the brain as well – the so-called cingulate gyrus. This organ (also part of the limbic system), according to Meyer-Lindenberg, “is responsible for controlling emotions and avoidance of danger.”
It turns out that the inhabitants of megacities who are already subject to every day stress react to it significantly more painfully than the inhabitants of villages and small towns. Moreover, if the findings of the scientists are right, then the neurophysiological response to a stressful situation in city dwellers is so strong that it can lead to destructive modifications in the brain and emotional disorders.
Surprised by such unambiguous results, the researchers conducted an additional series of experiments with other subjects, placing them in both stressful and non-stressful circumstances.However, the results had been confirmed: the differences in the the activity of cingulate cortex and the amygdala emerged precisely in response to stress, and are dependent on the subject’s location of residence. No other aspects – age, marital status, education or income level – affected the identified indicators.
An additional fascinating fact: typically, amygdala and cingulate gyrus, being parts of one limbic system, have the neural connection. However, in those subjects who grew up in the city (even if they subsequently moved to the suburbs or countryside), “communication” among them is weakened. Apparently, the formation of connections among these parts of the brain occurs in childhood.
Professor Meyer-Lindenberg believes that the next task for the scientists is always to identify certain aspects of urban life that trigger stress.
It is especially crucial in the situation when the urbanization is gathering pace. According to forecasts of social scientists, by 2050 urban dwellers will account for 70 percent of the total population of the planet. Studying what characteristics of a big city cause stress and how we react to them, scientists could provide recommendation on the improvement of the urban design that would make life less difficult for the inhabitants of megacities of the future.