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Surprising Science

Urban Brains Differ From Rural Brains

A recent study published in Nature examines the neurology behind the tendencies of urban dwellers to develop anxiety and eating disorders at higher rates than their rural brethren. 

What’s the Latest Development?

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Heidelberg, subjects were given a math test designed to humiliate them due to its difficulty. When scientists measured reactions in the subjects’ amygdalas, a brain region which assesses threats and generates fear, they found much higher activity in the brains of urban dwellers than in those who lived a more pacific country life. “The more urban a person’s childhood, the more active his amygdala was, regardless of where he was dwelling at the time of the experiment.”

What’s the Big Idea?

What is known through anecdote, that urban dwellers are higher strung and more prone to neuroses, has been confirmed by science. “In the cases of those brought up in the countryside, regardless of where they now live, the correlations were as expected. … The regulatory mechanism of the native urbanite, however, seems to be out of kilter. It is also known that the pACC-amygdala link is often out of kilter in schizophrenia, and that schizophrenia is more common among city dwellers than country folk.”


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