Greener neighbourhoods may be good for young people’s brains

Children living in greener urban areas may have better orientation and navigation abilities, according to new research using Child of the New Century.

What we asked you

At age 11, we asked you to take part in a computer activity that measured your spatial working memory. Spatial working memory is a measure of how effective people are at orientation and recording information about their environment. It allows us to navigate through a city or to remember the position of objects.

In this computer activity, you were asked to search for blue tokens hidden within coloured boxes displayed on a computer screen without returning to a box where a token had previously been found. The task gradually became more difficult as the number of boxes increased.

What the researchers found

Researchers from the UCL Institute of Education found that those of you living in neighbourhoods with more green space made fewer errors in the activity.

Green space still appeared to have an effect on children’s spatial working memory when other factors that might affect their performance were taken into account, including family poverty, parental education, and whether they took part in sports.

Why this research is important

Spatial working memory is an important part of our cognitive ability, and is often related to our academic achievement. Research like this offers important information for schools and urban planners to take into account.

Find out more about this research

Read the full paper.

The research was also covered by the Daily Mail.