Why City Life Is Damaging Your Brain

If you find it hard to pay attention to one thing at a time, continuously switching from one thing to another after losing focus on the task at hand, your living situation might be to blame.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, suggests that the excess amount of stimuli urbanites face can lead to an overall decrease in focus.

From jam-packed traffic, to an inbox full of e-mails to read through, to navigating through the lunch crowd and whizzing past the latest breaking news blaring through the television at the deli, urban dwellers take in a lot of information during their waking hours.

Your brain doesn’t know how to soak in everything that comes its way, so it computes and then disregards all the useless material. All of this can lower your mind’s focusing ability.

Scientists at the University of London’s Goldsmith College looked at a specific segment of population in Namibia. The Himba people from the South African country are traditionally rural farmers, but many of them have migrated to Opuwo, a city that has led them to live largely Westernized lives.

The researches assigned specific tasks to compare the attention spans of both the rural and westernized populations and found that those living in the city had “reduced attentional engagement.” Rural Himba people tuned out distractions much better than their urban counterparts during experiments.

MSN Living explains “Urbanites’ minds must compute more information, so they engage less devotedly with the specifics.”

The researchers also compared the brain patterns of the Himba people to those of Londoners, to see whether or not the experience was exclusive to the Namibian culture. They found that it wasn’t, as the brain patterns of the two were extraordinarily similar.

Don’t start packing for the country side just yet, however. There are several things you can do to improve your focus. Get into the habit of meditating — even 10 minutes a day can help to de-clutter your mind and allow you to engage with tasks more effectively.