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12th November 2015

Keen on Green

Astrid Kitchen lets us know how getting more foliage in our lives could improve our cognitive function

Increasingly, studies are illuminating the wondrous effects of plants on cognitive performance, so much so that local primary schools have been noticed raiding garden centres for as much foliage as a state budget can accommodate.

Apparently, this is with good reason: The Independent this summer mulled over Australian findings which demonstrated the positive correlation between green and brain. Using satellites to gauge the surroundings of schools, researcher’s noticed improved concentration levels and memory retention for those with a cheerful plant-orientated hike to school compared to their unfortunate urban counterparts. Interestingly, levels of greenery around homes had no impact, but results recognised a five per cent increase in brain development which, on a population scale, could have a massive effect.

Not only are these findings affecting our little ones, but care homes too have caught drift of the news. Its most sincere implementation is perhaps visible in the work of the famed Bill Thomas as noted by Atul Gawande in his book Being Mortal (the man is all the rage at the moment in the medical world—give him a Google). Bill’s introduction of plants and flowers of all sizes accompanied by an excessive abundance of animals (parakeets included) for each floor of a nursing home in upstate New York appeared to revolutionise the mental and physical health of residents.

Indeed, in line with ideas of the mutually soothing process of petting felines—a body of theory even the University of Manchester can’t deny (take part in the therapeutic puppy petting days held at the SU!)—the study found that prescription levels dropped to half the level of those at the control care home, (particularly for drugs prescribed for agitation) while death rates fell by 15 per cent.

For those of you floating about in the middle age-range and fretting over looming coursework deadlines, maybe it’s time you treat yourself to a quick plant purchase and jazz up your uni room with a fern or two (landlords seem pissy about parakeets nowadays).

Talking from experience, in the desperate days of trying to give Oak House the kiss of life it urgently needed, I trekked to Hulme Garden Centre in first year and spent a measly £25 quid on a six-foot Christmas tree and, ask anyone, Maple 28 had a legendary festive shindig. (Fun and games in December, less so in January when an abandoned and white-with-mould fir tree drove my flatmate to buy a saw, when the only means of disposing of it became dismemberment.)

For those of you who not bothered with venturing out of the Oxford Road bubble, pop to our very own weekly plant sale in Owens Park on a Wednesday. Rumour has it a cactus will only cost you a Magic Rider bus fare; a cheaper and healthier alternative to Ritalin kids!

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