Noise is more harmful to the brain than many realize. So much, that silence (whenever we can get it) plays a huge role in the way our brain functions. Read on to find out why silence is indeed golden.
The world is a loud and distracting place where silence is steadily becoming more difficult to come by, and this may be affecting our health negatively. The word noise comes from the Latin words noxia, which means hurt, damage, or injury; and nausia, which means nausea or disgust. Studies have shown that noise has a powerful effect on how the brain functions. When exposed to noise, our brain produces elevated levels of stress hormones even when we are asleep .
In 2011, the World Health Organization published a report on noise pollution calling the phenomenon a “modern affliction.” The report went on to say that “there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population.” . As the world around us becomes louder and louder, the importance of silence has become more apparent than ever before.
Silence is indeed golden
A 2013 study on the effects of auditory stimuli on mice carried out by scientists at Duke University found that silence is one of the most productive stimuli for our brain. During the study, four groups of mice were exposed to four different auditory stimuli: Mozart piano music, baby mice calls, white noise, and silence.
Researchers were surprised to find that the mice in the control group, which was exposed to 2 hours of silence a day, developed new brain cells in their hippocampus (the region of the brain tasked with the formation of emotion, memory, and learning) .
Although the growth of new cells in the brain doesn’t immediately translate to better health, one of the researchers, Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons under the effects of silence.
“We saw that silence is really helping the newly generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.” This means that silence can literally help you grow your brain .
Silence frees up some brain power
The brain doesn’t sleep, not even when we do. It is always actively internalizing and evaluating information and external stimuli. When we are exposed to silence, we give the brain less work to do and free up some brain power for more important tasks like improving imagination and creativity.
In an article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2013, Joseph Moran et al. wrote; “When the brain is exposed to silence, it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace.” This allows you to process information quicker and more accurately.
Silence calms the soul
We are constantly being bombarded by multiple sensory inputs every day and this places incredible strain on the brain as it attempts to analyze and catalog every single stimulus. This drains our attention resources and leaves us mentally fatigued, distracted, and unable to focus properly .
According to the attention restoration theory, the brain is able to restore its finite supply of cognitive resources whenever we are in environments with minimal sensory input – in a silent room, for example. During these periods, the brain can let down its sensory guard and improve the rate at which it assimilates information.
In a world filled with noise, the human brain has become adept at recognizing silence and responding powerfully to it. If you are feeling drained mentally it may be time to consider switching off and embracing some silence as a way of combatting the harmful effect of noise.
- “Science Says Silence is Vital for Our Brains“, UpLift. May, 2018.
- “Noise Pollution: A Modern Plague“, Medscape. 2019.
- “Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think“, Curious Mind Magazine.
- “Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think“, Lifehack. June, 2019.
- “Why Silence Is So Good For Your Brain”, Huffington Post. September, 2017.