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German and Canadian scientists studied the differences in the brain’s response to stress between individuals living in cities, towns or rural areas. While scanning participants’ brains, stress was induced through social evaluations. Individuals actively living in cities manifested higher brain activity in the amygdala, a brain region related to fear, when compared with participants living in rural areas and towns. Moreover, activity in the perigenual Anterior Cingulate Cortex (pACC), an area known for modulating stress and amygdala activity, was shown to be increased in participants who were raised most of their lives in cities. Further experiments showed these findings to be specific to stress, as well as to the described brain regions. Altogether, this study provides a scientific explanation for the agitated lifestyle associated to living on metropolitan cities. Because some psychopathologies are most prevalent in urban areas, the results of this study suggest a potential mechanism that could explain this effect.

Title: City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans

Authors: Florian Lederbogen, Peter Kirsch, Leila Haddad, Fabian Streit, Heike Tost, Philipp Schuch, StefanWu¨st, Jens C. Pruessner, Marcella Rietschel, Michael Deuschle & Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg

Journal: Nature. 2011, June 22;474(7352):498-501