A new study by researchers at Michigan State University has concluded that spending too much time in dim lighting may harm your memory and ability to learn new things. The findings indicate that staying in dimly lit rooms for long periods of time can actually change the structure of the brain.
The researchers studied Nile grass rats, who have a similar sleeping pattern to people. They kept one group of rats in a dimly lit environment and a second group in a well-lit area. After four weeks, the rats subjected to dim lighting had lost 30% of capacity in the part of the brain that controls learning and memory. They also performed badly in a spatial task that had been trained in. By contrast, the animals who lived with bright lighting significantly improved in the same task.
After four weeks in dim lighting, the rats moved to a well-lit environment for another four weeks. The researchers found that their brain capacity returned to normal.
What this means for seniors
This study could have a significant impact on senior care, particularly seniors with dementia. Dementia is marked by a progressive decline in mental ability. Now that we know how lighting affects the brain, we can implement measures to improve brain function. At the very least, now we know to keep the lights on.
To read about another way to improve memory, check out this article on our blog: Board Games for Seniors