According to neuroscientists, spending too much time in dimly lit rooms may hurt one’s ability to remember and learn.

Open the curtains and let the light in. Ground-breaking research from Michigan State University has found that spending too much time in dimly lit rooms may actually change our brain’s structure.

The study

Researchers studied the brains of Nile grass rats – which, like humans, sleep at night.

The rodents exposed to dim light lost about 30 percent of capacity in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning and memory, and performed poorly on a spatial task they had trained on previously.

The rats exposed to bright light, on the other hand, showed significant improvement on the spatial task.

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When the rodents that had been exposed to dim light were then exposed to bright light for four weeks (after a month-long break), their brain capacity – and performance on the task – recovered fully.

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Mall brain

“When we exposed the rats to dim light, mimicking the cloudy days of Midwestern winters or typical indoor lighting, the animals showed impairments in spatial learning,” said Antonio “Tony” Nunez, psychology professor and co-investigator on the study.

“This is similar to when people can’t find their way back to their cars in a busy parking lot after spending a few hours in a shopping mall or movie theatre.”

Sustained exposure to dim light led to significant reductions in a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor – a peptide that helps maintain healthy connections and neurons in the hippocampus – and in dendritic spines, or the connections that allow neurons to “talk” to one another.

“Since there are fewer connections being made, this results in diminished learning and memory performance that is dependent upon the hippocampus,” says Joel Soler, a doctoral graduate student in psychology and lead author of a paper on the findings.

“In other words, dim lights are producing dimwits.”

Source: Michigan State University via

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