Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A walk in the park gives mental boost to people with depression

15.05.2012
Study suggests nature walks improve cognitive abilities for people with clinical depression

A walk in the park may have psychological benefits for people suffering from depression.

In one of the first studies to examine the effect of nature walks on cognition and mood in people with major depression, researchers in Canada and the U.S. have found promising evidence that a walk in the park may provide some cognitive benefits.

The study was led by Marc Berman, a post-doctoral fellow at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, with partners from the University of Michigan and Stanford University. It is published online this week, ahead of print publication, in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

"Our study showed that participants with clinical depression demonstrated improved memory performance after a walk in nature, compared to a walk in a busy urban environment," said Dr. Berman, who cautioned that such walks are not a replacement for existing and well-validated treatments for clinical depression, such as psychotherapy and drug treatment.

"Walking in nature may act to supplement or enhance existing treatments for clinical depression, but more research is needed to understand just how effective nature walks can be to help improve psychological functioning," he said.

Dr. Berman's research is part of a cognitive science field known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART) which proposes that people concentrate better after spending time in nature or looking at scenes of nature. The reason, according to ART, is that people interacting with peaceful nature settings aren't bombarded with external distractions that relentlessly tax their working memory and attention systems. In nature settings, the brain can relax and enter a state of contemplativeness that helps to restore or refresh those cognitive capacities.

In a research paper he published in 2008 in Psychological Science, Dr. Berman showed that adults who were not diagnosed with any illness received a mental boost after an hour-long walk in a woodland park – improving their performance on memory and attention tests by 20 percent – compared to an hour-long stroll in a noisy urban environment. The findings were reported by The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and in the Pulitzer Prize finalist book by Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains.

In this latest study, Dr. Berman and his research team explored whether a nature walk would provide similar cognitive benefits, and also improve mood for people with clinical depression. Given that individuals with depression are characterized by high levels of rumination and negative thinking, the researchers were skeptical at the outset of the study that a solitary walk in the park would provide any benefit at all and may end up worsening memory and exacerbating depressed mood.

For the study, 20 individuals were recruited from the University of Michigan and surrounding Ann Arbor area; all had a diagnosis of clinical depression. The 12 females and eight males (average age 26) participated in a two-part experiment that involved walking in a quiet nature setting and in a noisy urban setting.

Prior to the walks, participants completed baseline testing to determine their cognitive and mood status. Before beginning a walk, the participants were asked to think about an unresolved, painful autobiographical experience. They were then randomly assigned to go for an hour-long walk in the Ann Arbor Arboretum (woodland park) or traffic heavy portions of downtown Ann Arbor. They followed a prescribed route and wore a GPS watch to ensure compliance.

After completing their walk, they completed a series of mental tests to measure their attention and short-term/working memory and were re-asssessed for mood. A week later the participants repeated the entire procedure, walking in the location that was not visited in the first session.

Participants exhibited a 16 percent increase in attention and working memory after the nature walk relative to the urban walk. Interestingly, interacting with nature did not alleviate depressive mood to any noticeable degree over urban walks, as negative mood decreased and positive mood increased after both walks to a significant and equal extent. Dr. Berman says this suggests that separate brain mechanisms may underlie the cognitive and mood changes of interacting with nature.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health and a private grant from the TKF Foundation.

At Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute, Marc Berman's research explores the brain mechanisms involved in controlling thoughts, feeling and behaviors, and how to improve those abilities. Prior to joining Baycrest in 2011, Dr. Berman received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience and Industrial and Operations Engineering at the University of Michigan.

For more information on this press release, please contact:

Kelly Connelly
Senior Media Officer
Rotman Research Institute
Baycrest
416.785.2432

Kelly Connelly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.baycrest.org

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies
30.03.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

nachricht 'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine
30.03.2017 | University of Nebraska-Lincoln

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

An LED-based device for imaging radiation induced skin damage

30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>