Is living in a city affecting your child’s MEMORY? | Daily News

Is living in a city affecting your child’s MEMORY?

Children raised in leafier areas of towns or cities could do better at school because their brains develop differently.

Research shows 11-year-olds brought up in urban areas with more trees have more grey matter in part of the brain which affects concentration and maths ability.

The boost in grey matter means the children have a better spatial working memory, which is responsible for understanding their surroundings and spatial awareness.

And this type of memory is linked to how children do at school, researchers say, so those raised in greener areas could have an advantage over their urban peers.

Plants are thought to help the brain develop because they are less demanding to look at and hear than man-made surroundings, so are less likely to tire the brain.

The scientists say their findings emphasize how important it is for architects and governments to include green space in neighbourhoods in towns and cities.

The study by University College London studied the spatial working memory of 4,758 11-year-olds living in towns and cities in England.It revealed those who live in concreted areas without much greenery have a worse working memory than those in leafier areas.

Spatial working memory is essentially people's ability to record information about what they can sense around them.

It affects their ability to adapt to new surroundings, to remember what they've seen and where things are, to find objects or places, and to remember information while carrying out unrelated tasks. It's also closely linked to the capacity to pay attention and focus on things, as well as mathematical skill – both of which are vital to doing well at school.

Study author Professor Eirini Flouri said: 'Spatial working memory is an important cognitive ability that is strongly related with academic achievement in children – particularly mathematics performance.

'Our findings suggest a positive role of green space in [brain] functioning.

'Exposure to natural, green settings restores attentional resources by imposing fewer demands on visual or auditory processing.

'Prolonged periods requiring the use of 'directed' attention result in mental fatigue, which is characterised by feeling irritable and being easily distracted.'

Professor Flouri added that green space can also improve the health and wellbeing of parents, which in turn improves the lives of their children.

She said the team's findings support a case for having more outdoor learning at school and encouraging architects and planners to maintain parks and open space.

And the same effects are seen regardless of whether neighbourhoods are rich or poor, showing green space can have benefits wherever it is.

To find their results the British researchers used children from the Millenium Cohort Study – children born in 2000 or 2001 whose development has been tracked since.

They measured the amount of green space in a child's neighbourhood by looking at the area on Google Maps.

This was then compared with how well the children performed on spatial working memory tests, such as having to remember a shape or colour which flashed up on a screen.

Children living in less green areas performed worse on the tests, and vice versa.

And the results were not affected by poverty, parents' education, sports participation or neighbourhood deprivation.

Professor Flouri said hers is the first study to examine the association in children between neighbourhood green space and this particular aspect of working memory.

The findings add to studies across the world suggesting that growing up in leafier surroundings aids mental development.

A Spanish team found children living near parks, gardens or woodland – or going to schools with lots of greenery around – were a year ahead of their 'urban jungle' counterparts.

Professor Flouri added: 'Neighbourhoods with green space are thought to make their adult residents healthier, fitter and slimmer.

'However, there has been relatively little research into the role of green space for children – especially for outcomes in the cognitive domain.

'This is unfortunate because there are certainly many reasons why exposure to green space would have benefits for them.'

The team's findings were published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.

-Daily Mail.UK


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