Scientists at Duke University confirm that silence is indeed golden. This accidental discovery can drastically change the way scientists have looked at silence. It turns out that silence is one of the most productive stimuli for our brains.
Our brains are dependent on external and internal stimuli in order to build, reorganize and summarize new information.
This same fact led scientists at Duke University to explore the ways the brain builds patterns and creates new cells under the effect of auditory stimuli. To their surprise, silence turned out to be the most powerful one on a long-term scale.
In an experiment done on mice, scientists at Duke University tried to study the effects of auditory stimuli on mice.
Their primary intention was to see how different sounds and noises contributed to the changes in brain structure.
The experiment exposed four groups of mice to four different auditory stimuli: white noise, baby mice calls, Mozart piano music and silence.
All auditory stimuli contributed to a certain change in the brains of the mice, but none with a lasting impact.
However, the scientists never anticipated that silence would contribute to the brain to such a miraculous extent! In fact, they didn’t even intend to study the effects of silence in the first place.
The neurobiologists used silence as a control that wouldn’t produce any effects. To their surprise, with only 2 hours of exposure to silence a day, the mice in the control group developed new brain cells in their hippocampus.
The hippocampus is a region in the brain related to the formation of memory, emotion and learning.
New cells in the brain may not be anything worth talking about a lot, but when these cells successfully reassign their role to neurons, the effects could be miraculous.
The growth and development of nervous tissue is called neurogenesis and it is what exactly happened to the mice under the effects of silence.
This new lead could possibly be the solution to many conditions that are related to decreasing rates of neurogenesis in the hippocampus.Conditions such as dementia and depression could be stopped and even reversed if silence were to be used as a therapeutic tool.
In practice, meditation is one of the oldest mental exercises that focuses primarily on silencing the environment and the brain. If you explore the meditative techniques, you will notice that they all recommend a starting point in silence.
However, meditation doesn’t stop there. This technique teaches you how to produce the effect of silence and how to silence the environment around you by ‘switching off’ your conscious thought and perception processes at any given time and place.
So, if you keep forgetting things, or if you feel depressed or stressed out, next time you want to get away from all that, try going somewhere quiet and peaceful.
Every auditory stimulus has its own benefits, but the lack of auditory stimuli may prove to be one of the most beneficial ‘stimuli’. No wonder people have been saying ‘silence is golden’.
National Center For Biotechnology Information
Is silence golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis