Here’s Why Experts Say Dim Lighting Hurts Your Brain

Is mood lighting making us dumber?

Here’s Why Experts Say Dim Lighting Hurts Your Brain

Is mood lighting making us dumber?

People who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, or have at least heard of it, know that lighting can really affect your mood. But did you know that it can also seriously impact how well you think?

In a groundbreaking new study by Michigan State University, neuroscientists found that dim light can actually impair your memory and learning abilities. Which means that as much as you may hate the fluorescent lighting in your office, it could actually be helping you work.

Of course, as with the recent study on the exact amount you should drink per day, the study has its limitations—the chief one being that it was performed on Nile grass rats (who, like humans, sleep at night and are active during the day).

The rats were divided into two groups, one which was exposed to bright light, the other, to dim light. The researchers found that the rats basking in bright light were able to perform a spatial task far better than the ones encased in the low glow. Lest you think the former rats were simply smarter, brain scans indicated that the dim light rats lost about 30 percent of capacity in their hippocampus, the region largely responsible for memory and learning. Furthermore, when the rats who had been exposed to dim light for a month were then placed into bright light for four weeks, their brain capacity fully recovered, indicating that we can somewhat offset the negative impact of dim light with an equal amount of bright light.

“Since there are fewer connections being made, this results in diminished learning and memory performance that is dependent upon the hippocampus,” said Joel Soler, a doctoral graduate student in psychology, and the lead author of the study published in the journal Hippocampus. “In other words, dim lights are producing dimwits.”

The study dispels the previous myth that cloudy weather or rainy days are good for working, and can be useful in determining ways to prevent the onset Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Of course, its impact on our cognitive abilities isn’t the only reason it’s imperative to get outside on sunny days, particularly in the wintertime. Another recent study concluded that sunlight can actually help you lose weight.

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