Posted on Jul 12, 2019, 3 p.m.
Silence may be used as a selling point more often as it is becoming more attractive while the world around us becomes louder and more cluttered. Many seek out silence and the reprieve it has to offer from noise pollution, turns out this is a wise choice as science is showing that silence is much more important to the brain than what was once thought.
A study published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function involving mice used different types of noise and silence while monitoring the effects they had on the brains of the animals. Silence was intended to be the control, but it was discovered while the animals were exposed to 2 hours of silence per day they developed new cells in their hippocampus associated with memory, emotion, and learning; and according to Imke Kirste these cells appeared to become functioning neurons.
Another study defined a default mode of brain function showing when the brain was resting it is perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information. This default mode is also used in self reflection. In Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran wrote: “the brain’s default mode network is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example. When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into a conscious workspace.”
There appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things when you are not distracted by noise or goal oriented tasks; these periods of silence provide the brain with the freedom it needs to discover its place in the internal and external world to help you think about profound things in an imaginative way.
Noise has been found to have a physical effect on the brain resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. Sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear which the body reacts to even if sleeping. The amygdalae is thought to cause the release of stress hormones, living consistently noisy environments is likely to cause chronically elevated less of stress hormones.
In a study published in Psychological Science children exposed to noise were found to develop a stress response that caused them to ignore the noise; they were observed to ignored harmful stimuli as well as stimuli they should pay attention to such as speech.
Noise may cause stress and tension but silence releases tension in both the mind and body. 2 minutes of silence was found to be even more relaxing than listening to relaxing music, according to a study published in the journal Heart which based findings on changes noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.
Noise pollution has been found to affect a person’s cognitive task performance at work, home, and school, it can also cause decreased motivation and increase making errors; the most strongly affected cognitive functions are reading attention, memory, and problem solving.
Children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways, or highways were concluded to have lower reading skills and to be slower in development of cognitive and language skills.
The brain can restore its finite cognitive resources, according to the attention restoration theory when in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can recover some cognitive abilities; silence allows the brain to let down sensory guards to restore some of what has been lost through excess noise.
Suddenly taking that quiet stroll seems more appealing as it may prove to do your mind and body a world of positive effects, silence really is golden after all.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.