2015

Green spaces and cognitive growth in children


Dr. Michael Jerrett, co-authored a study that suggests contact with nature may play a crucial role in brain development.

Child playing on grass

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reports a link between exposure to green spaces at school and cognitive development in primary schoolchildren. Contact with nature is thought to play a crucial and irreplaceable role in brain development but available evidence on such role is still scarce.

To test the association between cognitive maturation and exposure to green spaces at home and school and during commutes, a study led by Payam Dadvand and coordinated by Jordi Sunyer, researchers at CREAL, an ISGlobal allied center, monitored changes in cognitive measures every three months between January 2012 and March 2013 among nearly 2,600 primary schoolchildren 7-10 years of age in Barcelona, Spain.

Over a 12-month period, exposure to greenness within and around schools-as determined by satellite data-was linked with enhanced mental ability to continuously manipulate and update information-faculties called working memory and superior working memory, respectively-and with reduced inattentiveness, regardless of ethnicity, maternal education, and parental employment.

Each interquartile range increment in total surrounding greenness was linked with a 5% increase in working memory, a 6% increase in superior working memory, and 1% reduction in inattentiveness. “We also found that traffic-related air pollution accounted for 20-65% of the estimated links between school greenness and cognitive development. A part of the observed influence of green spaces on cognitive development could be mediated by the ability of green spaces in reducing air pollution which itself has been negatively linked to cognitive development”, explains Dadvand.

However, no link was observed between exposure to greenness at home and cognitive measures. “Given the soaring rates of global urbanization, expanding green spaces at schools might lead to improvements in cognitive development for schoolchildren, which ultimately can result in an advantage in mental capital at population level, according to the authors”, concludes Sunyer.

Dr. Michael Jerrett, chair of FSPH Environmental Health Sciences, co-authored this study.

Read the full report

Learn more about the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL)

Faculty Referenced by this Article

Michael Jerrett
Michael Jerrett
Environmental Health Sciences
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Arthur Cho
Arthur Cho
Environmental Health Sciences
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Arabzadah, Hamid
Hamid Arabzadeh
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Lara Cushing
Lara Cushing
Environmental Health Sciences
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Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Environmental Health Sciences
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Timothy Malloy
Environmental Health Sciences
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Angelo J Bellomo
Angelo Bellomo
Environmental Health Sciences
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Brian Cole
Brian Cole
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Oliver Hankinson
Oliver Hankinson

Dr. Hankinson is a Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and of EHS, and Chair of the Molecular Toxicology IDP

Environmental Health Sciences
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Feng Gao
Feng Gao
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Wendie Robbins
Wendie Robbins
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Shane Que Hee
Shane Que Hee

Industrial Hygiene & Analytical Chemistry

Environmental Health Sciences
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Mel Suffet
Irwin Suffet
Environmental Health Sciences
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Rachael Jones
Rachael Jones
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Daniel Uslan
Daniel Uslan
Environmental Health Sciences
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Tao Huai
Tao Huai
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Beate Ritz
Beate Ritz
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Jian Li
Jian Li
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Dr. Pouran D. Faghri
Pouran D. Faghri
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Kevin Njabo
Kevin Njabo
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Candace Tsai
Candace Tsai

Associate Professor for Industrial Hygiene and Environmental Health Sciences

Environmental Health Sciences
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Miriam Marlier
Miriam Marlier
Environmental Health Sciences
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Curtis Eckhert
Curtis Eckhert
Environmental Health Sciences
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Kirsten Schwarz
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Jane Valentine
Jane Valentine
Environmental Health Sciences
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Rosenstock
Linda Rosenstock
Environmental Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Andre Nel
André Nel
Environmental Health Sciences
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Jesus Araujo
Environmental Health Sciences
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Pablo Cicero-Fernandez
Pablo Cicero-Fernandez
Environmental Health Sciences
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Richard Ambrose
Richard Ambrose
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Yifang Zhu
Yifang Zhu
Environmental Health Sciences
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Nicole Green
Environmental Health Sciences
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Niklas Krause
Environmental Health Sciences Epidemiology
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Arthur Winer
Environmental Health Sciences
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Dr. Robert Schiestl
Robert Schiestl
Environmental Health Sciences
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Richard J. Jackson
Richard J. Jackson
Environmental Health Sciences
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Michael Collins
Michael Collins
Environmental Health Sciences
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