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New study has found the brain acts differently when you’re indoors compared to when you’re outdoors


Researchers from the University of Alberta have discovered that the brain behaves differently outdoors compared to when it is indoors. The study, which was published in the journal Brain Research, investigated what happens to the brain when it performs tasks in “increasingly complex environments” – such as the outdoors – using mobile electroencephalography (EEG).

  • The research team mounted mobile EEG equipment into backpacks, which were then given to participants.
  • For the study, the participants rode a bicycle outside while performing a standard neuroscience task. This involved an oddball auditory paradigm where they identified changes in pitch in a series of beeping sounds.
  • The task had a previous iteration which was conducted on stationary bikes inside the lab, but the current study was able to measure brain activity using portable equipment.
  • Researchers were able to build a way to measure signals for event-related potentials (ERP).
  • The tests noted that the P3 component of the ERP – a known biomarker for learning – decreased during the outdoor test. However, the N1 component of the brain, which is responsible for noticing stimuli, greatly increased during the exercise.
  • Future studies will involve measuring auditory P2 brain function – a biomarker for working memory – inside the laboratory.

The researchers will also explore how the reduction of the P2 component can be influenced by different degrees of distraction, such as that of a quiet path or a busy roadway.

Find the full text of the study at this link.

Journal Reference:

Scanlon JEM, Townsend KA, Cormier DL, Kuziek JWP, Mathewson K. TAKING OFF THE TRAINING WHEELS: MEASURING AUDITORY P3 DURING OUTDOOR CYCLING USING AN ACTIVE WET EEG SYSTEM. 2017 Dec 6. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1101/157941

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