a year ago
Ah, these short winter days with constant lack of sunlight! Seems like the darker it gets the slower your brain works. Actually, this could be true based on the results of a recent experiment conducted at Michigan State University. The scientists decided to check a bewildering hypothesis of whether the amount of light impacts the cognitive abilities.
Turns out spending a lot of time in the dimly lit room or office might alter the structure and hinder the ability to learn and remember information. To make this conclusion, the neuroscientists from Michigan State University used two groups of rats for their experiment. The first group of Nile grass rats has been exposed to dim lights (DLD) for 4 weeks experienced. The second group of rats, on the contrary, were exposed to bright lights for the same period of time.
As a result, the first group has shown a 30% decrease in the number of 'dendritic spine' connections in their brains. Dendrites are responsible for electric impulse transmission to the nerve cells. Rats in the first group showed poor performance while completing a maze-like task. However, the second group of rats exposed to bright light (BLD), had more of the dendritic connections which helped them demonstrate much better results.
What’s the Meaning of All This?
Does the experiment mean that the rats exposed to dim light became stupid? Is this irreversible? The rodents from the first group lost approximately 30% of the hippocampus capacity which is a critical brain region for learning and memory. Also, they had poor performance on a spatial task they had earlier trained for.
If you’ve already started pitying the rats, don’t. When the rodents from the first group had been exposed to bright light for 4 weeks (after a 4-week break), their brain capacity fully recuperated. Another study funded by the National Institutes of Health demonstrated that environmental light fluctuations cause structural changes in the brain. The Environmental Protection Agency data suggests that Americans spend 90% of the time indoors.
Can More Exposure to Daylight Make You Smarter?
So, are dim lights actually producing dimwits? The results of the rodent experiment suggest that light does not have any direct impact on the hippocampus. Passing through the eyes, the light influences the other brain parts first. The researchers are scrutinizing one particular site in the rodents' brains. The hypothalamus contains a group of neurons producing orexin peptide that influences a number of brain functions.
Thus, another hypothesis stems from the discovery: if orexin is given to the rats living in the dim light, will their brains recuperate without bright light exposure? In case of positive experiment results, the project could be helpful for “the elderly and people with glaucoma, retinal degeneration or cognitive impairments.”
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