Did you know that dim light could make you dumber? According to a study, spending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may change the brain’s structure and hurt one’s ability to remember and learn.
In an interesting study conducted by The Michigan State University researchers, they discovered the truth behind lighting and the brain. They studied the brains of Nile grass rats (who, like humans, are diurnal and sleep at night) after exposing them to dim and bright light for four weeks.
The rodents exposed to dim light lost about 30% 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. Whereas, the rats exposed to bright light showed significant improvement on the spatial task.
The research, then reversed the roles of the rodents. The ones who had been exposed to dim light were then exposed to bright light for four weeks (after a month-long break). The results were astonishing. Their brain capacity and performance on the task had recovered fully. The study is the first to show that changes in environmental light, in a range normally experienced by humans, leads to structural changes in the 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 leads to significant reductions in a substance called ‘brain derived neurotrophic factor’ – a peptide that helps maintain healthy connections and neurons in the hippocampus of the brain. “Since there are fewer connections being made, this results in diminished learning and memory performance that is dependent upon the hippocampus,” the research said. “In other words, dim lights are producing dimwits.”
However, there is continued research happening in this area to see the long-term effects on the brain. Also, it will be crucial to understand how it can affect other parts of the brain that the light passes to.
Nevertheless, enough thought for the ones who love dim lighting in comparison to bright ones. Time to revisit the electrical shop!