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Outdoor Brains

February 7, 2018

What can taking research outdoors tell us about the brain?

Transcript

Neuroscientists at the University of Alberta are measuring auditory P3 during outdoor cycling using an active wet EEG system. (John Ulan)

Neuroscientists at the University of Alberta are measuring auditory P3 during outdoor cycling using an active wet EEG system. (John Ulan)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Our brains, outdoors. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Most studies of the brain are conducted in the lab. But that only gives you part of the story, according to University of Alberta cognitive neuroscientist Joanna Scanlon.

JOANNA SCANLON (University of Alberta):

You’re blocking out any kind of light or sound. It’s really sort of unnatural to look at human brains in that way, especially considering in our normal life we’re always walking through this rich complex world.

HIRSHON:

So she and her colleagues decided to measure the brain activity of people while they rode bikes outdoors. They report in the journal Brain Research that compared to the lab, the brains of cyclists in the outdoors processed information very differently.

SCANLON:

When you’re outside in that environment, your brain is sort of doing this thing to compensate for all these distractions.

HIRSHON:

Further research could help answer questions about how our brains respond to potentially unsafe situations in the real world. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.