Woodland Growth

Ahh, birds chirping, leaves rustling … brains GROWING?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

A nice walk in the woods does wonders for a busy mind. But how does growing up near woods-y areas help DEVELOPING minds?

Researcher Mikaël Maes at Imperial College London and colleagues wondered. The team tracked over three thousand adolescents over the course of two years. They tested skills like memory and self-control. Mental health was assessed using questionnaires. They also used satellite data to estimate the teens’ daily exposure to woodlands, grasslands, and wetlands.

Results? Kids with the highest daily exposure to woodland areas showed better development in areas like working memory, attention, and self-control. This was especially true when compared to kids with the least woodland exposure. They even showed a sixteen percent decreased risk of emotional and behavioral problems. 

The researchers think the soothing forest sounds and little woodland critters might deserve credit for these positive effects. Thanks, Bambi and Thumper!

Maybe that dreamy cabin in the woods wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all… With a hot tub for mom.  Ahhhh.

Reference: Maes, M.J.A., Pirani, M., Booth, E.R. Shen, C., Milligan, B., Jones, K. E., & Toledano, M. B.  Benefit of woodland and other natural environments for adolescents’ cognition and mental health. Nat Sustain (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00751-1