Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

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Nature walks may help those with depression

If you’re fighting clinical depression, a walk among the trees tops a stroll along an urban street when it comes to boosting cognitive performance, claims a new study.

From PsychCentral.com, posted on May 15:

“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 Marc Berman, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. Berman conducted the research with scientists at the University of Michigan and Stanford University.

The researcher was quick to caution that nature walks are not a replacement for accepted treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy and drug treatment, but rather “may act to supplement or enhance existing treatments for clinical depression.”

He added that more research is needed to understand how effective nature walks are in improving psychological functioning.

Berman’s research is part of a cognitive science field known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART). It proposes that people concentrate better after spending time in nature or looking at scenes of nature because the peaceful settings give the brain a chance to relax, which helps restore or refresh cognitive capacities.

The last paragraph contained an interesting tidbit:

The researchers also noted that 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. Berman said this suggests that separate brain mechanisms may underlie the cognitive and mood changes of interacting with nature.

One reason to wait for more research? This study was based on only 20 people.

Mon, May 21 2012 » * Big Picture Stuff, Main Page