Don’t know about you, but we’ve been very foggy folk of late. Waking up has been a struggle and we seem to only be able to process episodes of The Good Wife, never mind all those election debates. Can’t cope. Our brains can’t deal when the air outside is cutting our faces like daggers.
Turns out this sluggish brain activity we’ve been experiencing might actually be caused by science, and not just a general ughhhhh at life while we wait for summer.
A study from Rockefeller University and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that our brains behave differently depending on the time of the year. Our brain waves have seasons, essentially. In the study, 28 people were asked to perform two types of cognitive tasks and different times of the year. Each person was attached to a brain scanner while they performed a ‘sustained attention task’ – this was pressing a button as soon as a stopwatch went off. Same process with the ‘working memory task’ where people had to look at a series of letters and discern if the same consonant was being repeated. For each task, ‘performance’ remained the same throughout the year. However, ‘brain activity’ differed. Some times of the year requires more mental effort.
For the button task – ‘sustained attention’ – brain activity was higher in the summer and lowest in the winter. For the ‘working task’ brain activity peaked in the autumn and was lowest in spring. The researchers think this may have something to do with neurotransmitters in the brain and how serontonin levels are higher in the summer and dopamine rises in the autumn.
We’re not remotely scientists, and while it doesn’t seem like winter sluggishness has found it’s lightening bolt of existence in this study, it is interesting that our attention isn’t sharpest during the winter. So next time a co-worker calls you out on being dopey, hit him or her up with some, “Well, there’s actually a study…”