Your Brain, On Cities

A neuroscientist discusses how cities might be overstraining urbanites’ brains in an interesting New Hamshire public radio clip. Now that the majority of humans live in cities, will we just get dumber and more tired, or evolve and adjust?

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Ever feel like the city is overwhelming your brain? You’re not alone, and possibly not without science to back up your symptoms. According to Jonah Lehrer and some new science reports, your brain uses up a lot of its basic resources just taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of city life. Imagine a computer trying to run 10 different programs, and you get an idea of how your brain is potentially overstimulated and slowed by city life. A brief walk in a park — especially a biodiverse park with lots of different plant species — can benefit a brain and restore brain circuits that are depleted by dense city life.

At the same time, we recognize that cities are the sources of creativity. The other side to this story is that some other scientific reports show how living in a dense city can boost innovative thinking (measured in number of patents, etc.). Andrew Blum, a contributor to Wired and to our live blog of the Penn IUR conference Design After the Age of Oil, chimes in with a defense of city life.

Let me stop describing the segment, and let you listen to it here.

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Diana Lind is the former executive director and editor in chief of Next City.

Tags: new york cityparks

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