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Cambridge University Science Magazine
Anthropogenic noise pollution in urban environments has been shown to mask bird signals and create selection pressures driving the evolution of bird songs. Over the last couple of decades, multiple studies have shown that urbanisation negatively impacts mental health with symptoms such as increased depression, paranoia and schizophrenia. Similarly, many studies have shown the mental and physical health benefits correlated with access to nature and rural environments. However, little focus had been made on the effects of sound.

A recent study by Stobbe et. al looked at how birdsong can affect those in urban environments filled with noise pollution. They found that birdsong can improve our mental health and that these effects are stronger in areas with more severe noise pollution. In this study, subjects listened to recordings of high and low traffic soundscapes with different vehicle diversity as well as high and low birdsong soundscapes with varying diversity. Participants’ psychosis liability, cognition, mood and paranoid symptoms were measured with several standardised scale indices before and after listening to each soundscape. Results showed that although cognition did not appear to be affected by the stimuli, noise pollution had a negative effect and birdsong had an exclusively positive effect on other studied aspects.

Laura Chilver

Original article: Stobbe, E., Sundermann,J., Ascone, L. et al. Birdsongs alleviate anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants. Sci Rep 12, 16414 (2022).

Image credit: Dino Abatzidis
The original image has been cropped