After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen

Monday, 3 December 2012
Your Brain Likes Nature Better Than E-Mail

In the early summer of 2010, five neuroscientists spent a week all on their own, rafting and camping along the San Juan River in a remote area of southern Utah, in the United States. Nothing so special about that—plenty of people make these kinds of wilderness expeditions nowadays.

What made this adventure different was that these scientists gave themselves two additional challenges. Knowing that workaholism tends to come with their profession, they decided to spend the entire week without their cell phones and laptop computers. And being neuroscientists, they decided to observe their own reactions to this deprivation and thereby try to shed light on their own hypotheses about how daily use of these technologies may be changing the ways that people think and behave.

For example, the group’s organizer, David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, believes that a high daily frequency of digital stimuli may impair attention, which is central to learning and with which many different forms of deficits are associated. Another member of the group studies teenagers’ sometimes compulsive use of cell phones and believes that it may cause anxiety. Still another believes that people’s working memory may be affected by the distraction of constantly expecting to receive e-mails.

The scientists’ plan may sound a bit masochistic —imagine seven days without being able to access your e-mails! —but they soon noticed that they were sleeping better, and they soon lost the reflex of constantly looking at their cell phones, and even of putting on their watches in the morning. Instead, they spent their time enjoying the beauties of the canyon that they were floating down.

Maybe it was the more varied sensory stimuli of the natural environment, or the physical effort and concentration needed to navigate the river’s rapids safely, or the lack of any time constraints. Be that as it may, by the third day, several members of the expedition found that they were thinking more clearly and even coming up with new research ideas! And overall, the scientists became calmer, more contemplative, and more attentive to their environment.

These effects are consistent with those observed in other studies, such as the finding that people who took a walk in the woods learned better subsequently than people who had taken a walk down a crowded downtown street. In short, in the same way that doctors prescribed aspirin for many years without really understanding how it worked, these scientists came back from their expedition fairly convinced that a regular dose of nature has beneficial effects on the human brain, but could not really explain how or why.

i_lien Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain
i_lien How the City Hurts Your Brain…And What You Can Do About It

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