Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Off-Topic Stuff

A wise man once sang:

City's just a jungle, more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, trying to get away
I was raised in the country, I been workin' in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down
Having spent my formative years in West Virginia, I feel that way an awful lot. I can't imagine what I'd feel like if I lived in a really big city. I'm lucky enough to live on an edge of suburbia that, if you squint your eyes, looks kind of like the country, and from time to time I'm able to take relatively restorative country walks. Based on a recent study, that's probably a good thing:

Thoreau would have liked this study: interacting with nature (at least when compared to a hectic urban landscape) dramatically improves improve cognitive function. In particular, being in natural settings restores our ability to exercise directed attention and working memory, which are crucial mental talents. The basic idea is that nature, unlike a city, is filled with inherently interesting stimuli (like a sunset, or an unusual bird) that trigger our involuntary attention, but in a modest fashion. Because you can't help but stop and notice the reddish orange twilight sky - paying attention to the sunset doesn't take any extra work or cognitive control - our attentional circuits are able to refresh themselves. A walk in the woods is like a vacation for the prefrontal cortex.

Strolling in a city, however, forces the brain to constantly remain vigilant, as we avoid obstacles (moving cars), ignore irrelevant stimuli (that puppy in the window) and try not to get lost. The end result is that city walks are less restorative (at least for the prefrontal cortex) than strolls amid the serenity of nature.
The Internet is a wonderful thing that, with any luck, will one day enable me to write about an urban-based sport from a pastoral setting.

(link via Sullivan)

3 comments:

blaze said...

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Obviously, you are determined to expose the fraud I seek to perpetuate: I'm a total wuss. I love baseball, but I love literature more. Both are best accompanied by a robust brew. Oh, and politics. Draw me a Stella, will you? Wait, not so robust. Bass? With a Dewars chaser.

Dharma Bum said...

Being a city folk, I find it more relaxing in the city than the country. I find it nice to relax walking on the sidewalks, looking at the beautiful sunset squeezed inside the office buildings through the magical haze of pollution. Meanwhile, it seems much more likely I'll get lost in the country and always have to stay on the look out for obstacles (bears!). It sounds like there was some bias on the part of this study, I know I'm not biased at all.

mooseinohio said...

Yet another reason why the move from Columbus to Athens makes sense.