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Those who daily jam into a packed subway car, or navigate the streets of Tokyo or New York, are literally risking their sanity.Last year, Dutch researchers found that city dwellers have a 21% higher risk of developing anxiety disorders, and a 39% higher risk of developing mood disorders than those who live in the country.
The Economist compares this research with a more recent study by Dr. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the University of Heidelberg, who found that urban dwellers respond to stress differently.
In his first experiment, Meyer-Lindenberg delivered a difficult maths test while fellow researchers yelled at the participants during the exam. Functional MRI scans revealed that city dwellers were more stressed out.
In particular, the scan looked at amygdalas, the structures in the brain that assess threats and fear, and the urbanites had the highest activity in that region of the brain; whereas those who live in the country had the lowest levels (and those who live in towns were somewhere in the middle).
The scans also looked at the perigenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC), which regulates the amygdalas, and found that in this case, it depended where the person grew up (regardless of where they live now). Those who were raised in a city had more uneven responses from the pACC, and a more disrupted connection between the pACC and amygdala.
It’s no surprise, then, that those two regions of the brain are usually “out of kilter” in schizophrenics — and there’s a higher percentage of schizophrenics who dwell in cities, says The Economist.
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