Exposure to daylight affects brain, enhances responses

Daylit Montessori classroom under construction - rnarchitect.com

We’ve known for a long time that exposure to light enhances both performance and alertness in humans, but little was known about the neurological basis for these effects. Now, researchers have begun to identify how light affects our cognitive functions, determining why we perform better with natural light.

The research was conducted at the University of Surrey and involved exposing subjects to various forms of light and imaging their brains while they perform cognitive tests. From the article:

Our brain does not use light only to form images of the world. Ambient light levels are detected by our nervous system and, without forming any image, profoundly influence our brain function and various aspects of our physiology, including circadian rhythms, hormone release, and heart rate. These responses are induced by a special non-image-forming (NIF) brain system, which researchers have begun to characterize in animal models. In human studies, much work has focused on the effects of nighttime light exposure, but little is known about daytime responses to light. Especially mysterious are the neural correlates of these responses, and their temporal dynamics. Such issues are of significant interest given that daytime sleepiness is a major source of complaint in modern society and has considerable socio-economic implications.

This is the reason that students perform better in green schools, and is also a very strong incentive for more buildings to make use of natural light sources – they’re not just saving energy, they can make you more alert and productive as well.

How exposure to daylight affects brain, enhances responses – What’s Next in Health

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Steve holds a degree in Environmental Engineering Technology from Humber College in Toronto, is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor. He currently lives in Victoria BC and works as a green building consultant specializing in residential projects.


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