Exposure to dim light can impair learning ability

The environment affects the brain structure responsible of storing and processing information

Exposición a luz tenue puede deteriorar la capacidad de aprendizaje

Spend much time in low lighting can affect brain structure. This was determined by a recent study by neuroscientists from Michigan State University, which demonstrated how light affects the brain structures responsible for storing and processing information.

The investigation was conducted by observing African grass rats, diurnal animals par excellence as man. During scientific observation, one group of mice was exposed for four weeks at dim light and another group to bright light.

In reviewing the results, mice stimulated with dim light lost about 30% of capacity in the hippocampus region of the brain responsible for processing actions of learning and memory.

In assessing the performance of the two groups of rodents performing a procedure for which they had been trained, the scientists showed that mice subjected to bright light executed the task with greater agility, contrary to those exposed to dim light, in whom the performance down considerably.

The study published in the journal Hippocampus aimed to highlighting what ambient light changes might mean for the human brain structure. According to explanations of scientists, by exposing the rats to the dim light, we tried to simulate winter or cloudy days the typical indoor lighting.

Experts mentioned, also in research, that constant exposure to such light produced a significant reduction of a substance known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a peptide which enables effective communication between neurons.

For this reason, "since fewer connections are made, this reduces learning and memory performance depends on the hippocampus", says the specialist to the specialized magazine, Joel Soler, co-author of the study.

Reversible and promising

For many the results can be worrisome, since, during the day, you can spend several hours in enclosures with artificial lighting. However, researchers were able to identify that exposing rodents in dim light to bright light, they returned to retrieve the tactical performance, and the effect caused by the influence of the counter light was reversed.

This result opens a new way to study the advantages that exposure to natural and bright light would have on people with glaucoma, retinal degeneration or cognitive disabilities.

Researchers believe that light does not directly affect the hippocampus, but acts first in other parts of the brain, a characteristic that would then manipulate a group of neurons towards treatments for eye diseases and cognitive problems.

For the project leader, scientific Lyli Yan, "another possibility (the use of bright light in humans) is to improve cognitive function in the aging population and those with neurological disorders" because, through exposure to the correct light, they could reverse or prevent determined disabilities or avoid a faster decline of degenerative diseases.


Latin American Post | Krishna Jaramillo

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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