Skip to main content

City Life Could Change Your Brain for the Worse | Wired Science |

I'm glad research is finding evidence that supports my impressions of city life. This research could have implications for autism, as well. There is significant evidence that autism rates are higher in some settings, but we don't know how correlations relate to causation or other factors. Simply finding more autistics in a region doesn't mean something in the region causes autism. It could be that similar people slowly congregate.

But, this study finds evidence that city life itself changes the brain. The implications are fairly important. Humans didn't live in cities of millions until recently. We did not evolve in groups much larger than a few thousand, and more often our social groups are under a thousand people. We're only emotionally wired to handle connections to 150 people or fewer. We deal with 1000 or more by connecting though our close connections. We connect beyond the 150, in other words, but we do so via networking.

City Life Could Change Your Brain for the Worse | Wired Science | "A study of German college students suggests that urbanite brains are more susceptible to stress, particularly social stress, than those of country dwellers. The findings don’t indicate which aspects of city life had changed the students’ brains, but provide a framework for future investigations.

“Whether people are exposed to noise, live near a park, have a big group of friends or not — you can do those experiments, and tease apart which parts of urban living are associated with these changes,” said Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, a psychiatrist at German’s Central Institute of Mental Health.

Meyer-Lindenberg’s findings, published June 23 in Nature, are a neurological investigation into the underpinnings of a disturbing social trend: As a rule, city life seems to generate mental illness.

Compared to their rural counterparts, city dwellers have higher levels of anxiety and mood disorders. The schizophrenia risk of people raised in cities is almost double. Literature on the effect is so thorough that researchers say it’s not just correlation, as might be expected if anxious people preferred to live in cities. Neither is it a result of heredity. It’s a cause-and-effect relationship between environment and mind."

Meyer-Lindenberg’s team repeated the study twice more with a total of 70 more students. Each time the same pattern emerged. The researchers then looked for links to age, education, income, marital and family status, mood and personality. But when those were taken into account, the pattern still remained.

Divergence from middle-of-the-range levels of amygdala activation in socially stressed test subjects. Nature

The larger the city in which a student lived, the more active their amygdala. The longer they’d lived in a city as a child, the more active their cingulate cortex. In other studies, the cingulate cortex has been described as
especially sensitive to early-life stress, with alterations linked to adult psychological problems.
City life does not agree with me, not in the least. I can't relax for a minute living in the Twin Cities. I hear the constant traffic, sirens, trains, trucks, busses, and other noises. I've written here several times about the sensory overload that is the city.

I don't know how any autistic lives in a huge metropolis without going insane. The Twin Cities aren't even that large and they are way too much for me. Cities are like rat mazes, dehumanizing and horrible places.

People pushing urban living in the name of sustainability don't seem to recognize that humans were not meant to live like this. Cities contradict our very natures. Becoming desensitized to the stimulation doesn't sound great to me. Eventually, people in cities seem to be desensitized to humans, as well. How is that a good thing?


Popular posts from this blog

Autistic Burnout

Summer demands a lot of social energy, especially for parents. For autistics, the never-ending social calendar of summer can cause serious autistic burnout. Host C. S. Wyatt discusses his need to find a balance between social demands and self-care. Check out this episode!

Autism, Asperger's, and IQ

"Aren't people with Asperger's more likely to be geniuses? Isn't genius related to autism?" A university student asked this in a course I am teaching. The class discussion was covering neurological differences, free will, and the nature versus nurture debate. The textbook for the course includes sidebars on the brain and behavior throughout chapters on ethics and morality. This student was asking a question reflecting media portrayals of autism spectrum disorders, social skills difficulties, and genius. I did not address this question from a personal perspective in class, but I have when speaking to groups of parents, educators, and caregivers. Some of the reasons these questions arise, as mentioned above, are media portrayals and news coverage of autism. Examples include: Television shows with gifted characters either identified with or assumed to have autistic traits: Alphas, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Touch, and others. Some would include

Free eBook on Autism and Relationships

This blog post is a bit unusual. I am testing to see if visitors can download a free eBook from this blog. I have linked to the file, which sits on our Web server. We have successfully tested the ePub edition of A Spectrum of Relationships . Only the abridged ePub edition is available for free at this time, not an Amazon Kindle edition, due to Amazon's policy requesting only full, commercial editions from small publishers. Until the text is revised and edited, I'm not comfortable publishing it formally. The commercial version will be released for the Amazon Kindle as well as other devices. In fact, it might be released first for the Kindle, if things go as planned. Downloading an ePub can be a challenge: some browsers try to open the file directly. To download the ePub, you might have to "right-click" and download the linked file. If you have the ePub extension installed, the FireFox browser will open the ePub correctly. A Spectrum of Relationships (ePub file) [