Got Time? Spend It in Nature

Science Fields

Nature lovers unite! We have great news that will benefit both your body and brain. 

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) recently published a study in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry which suggests that spending time outdoors is indeed good for brain health. 

For this study, Simone Kühn who is a professor of neural plasticity at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and colleagues performed whole brain analyses on six healthy adults living in Berlin. The researchers were interested in exploring the relationship between time spent outdoors and structural plasticity in the brain.

In their analyses, the researchers also accounted for factors such as fluid intake, amount of free time, caffeine intake and physical activity as these are known to influence mood and well-being in general. 

Regardless of the factors mentioned above, the results from a total of 281 MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans revealed a positive association between time spent outdoors and gray matter volume in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and positive mood. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is considered to be crucial for “executive function” in humans. The DLPFC is known to be involved in behavior planning and memory retrieval. 

According to Kühn, these findings suggest that “our brain structure and mood improve when we spend time outdoors. This most likely also affects concentration, working memory, and the psyche as a whole.” 

In light of these results, the researchers suggest that nature prescriptions can be considered for people who are struggling with mood disorders. In future studies, the researchers are eager to compare the effects of green environments versus urban spaces on the brain. 



  • 1. Kühn, S., Mascherek, A., Filevich, E., Lisofsky, N., Becker, M., et. al.(2021). Spend time outdoors for your brain – An in-depth longitudinal MRI study. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1080/15622975.2021.1938670
  • 2. D.J. Zgaljardic, P.J. Mattis, A. Charness, Executive Dysfunction, Editor(s): Katie Kompoliti, Leo Verhagen Metman, Encyclopedia of Movement Disorders,Academic Press, 2010, Pages 458-462, ISBN 9780123741059, https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-374105-9.00176-3.
  • 3. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210715103025.htm