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Study Shows That ‘Dynamic Lighting Systems’ Can Boost Brainpower Of Children

Study Shows That ‘Dynamic Lighting Systems’ Can Boost Brainpower Of Children

Every parent, teacher, or education professional, seems to be concerned with how to make their children happier, more creative, and smarter these days. Research into how the brains of children and adolescents develop is commonplace. The recent research into how the brains of children are affected by the lighting they study and perform under is just one of the latest efforts into understanding.

The Study

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea investigated the effect that various forms of lighting can have upon studying skills and general exam performance. They found that one kind of lighting in particular had a significantly positive effect in improving exam performance and memory, as reported in the journal Optics Express.

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The team investigated the effect that having ‘color temperatures’ in the separate lighting conditions has in performance between the two groups. One ‘temperature colour’ was 3500 K (a warm yellow-white colour), while another was a much cooler 6500 K (blue-white, akin to natural sunlight), and another was a standard fluorescent light set up to serve as the control group for the experiment.

The Results

When researchers examined the three test groups, they found that students performed the best in terms of academic performance under the 6500 K lighting condition. However, the 3500 K lighting condition also proved to be useful and helped facilitate the encouragement of relaxation and recess activities, suggesting that dynamic lighting systems could have a multitude of benefits for students. “The preliminary study and the field experiment fully supported a positive effect of 6500 K lighting on academic performance and 3500 K lighting on encouraging recess activities,” Kyungah Choi, a PhD candidate at the institute (as well as the lead author and researcher on the study), reported in a statement.

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Dr Hyeon-Jeong Suk, an associate professor at the university and co-author of the research study, commented that, “We were surprised by the fact that besides observing the performance improvement during the mathematical test, the interview results with young children — who have almost no background knowledge on lighting — were also in line with our empirical results. This shows that the effect of lighting was direct and intuitive and that anyone, regardless of age or level of knowledge, could experience and be aware.”

The Implications

The implications for this study have a significant field of interest – not only for teaching classrooms, but also for offices and other spaces where a boost in concentration could be beneficial, and where the 6500 K lighting condition could be implemented. Alternatively, Suk expanded upon the implications and potential applications of the results of the study, “Although the current research has mainly focused on the educational sector, dynamic lighting, as previously mentioned, can be employed to positively enhance users’ mood, well-being, and their health,”

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The idea of using lighting as a way to enhance and promote positive behaviors ties in strongly to years of previous research indicating that changing the variables inside a subject’s physical environment can bring about positive well-being changes. The most famous example of this is research which found that painting the walls of jail cells and prisons (areas with a higher than average rate of violence) the exact shade of pink that matches Pepto-Bismol, significantly calmed down inmates and cut down on rates of violent activity.

Whether or not this research could be rolled out across a larger scale, or with a larger study remains to be seen, but the implications are positive, particularly in a culture that is extolling the virtues of a healthy physical and emotional well-being. The results also indicate the possibility of boosting brainpower and productivity. As Sun aptly commented, “Lighting, compared to numerous other facility investments to enhance such physical and mental states of humans, is highly effective in a sense that it could produce a dramatic effect with slight change.”

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More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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