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Entropy of city street networks linked to future spatial navigation ability

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>7/04/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Nature
Issue number7904
Volume604
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)104–110
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date30/03/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

The cultural and geographical properties of the environment have been shown to deeply influence cognition and mental health. Living near green spaces has been found to be strongly beneficial, and urban residence has been associated with a higher risk of some psychiatric disorders—although some studies suggest that dense socioeconomic networks found in larger cities provide a buffer against depression. However, how the environment in which one grew up affects later cognitive abilities remains poorly understood. Here we used a cognitive task embedded in a video game to measure non-verbal spatial navigation ability in 397,162 people from 38 countries across the world. Overall, we found that people who grew up outside cities were better at navigation. More specifically, people were better at navigating in environments that were topologically similar to where they grew up. Growing up in cities with a low street network entropy (for example, Chicago) led to better results at video game levels with a regular layout, whereas growing up outside cities or in cities with a higher street network entropy (for example, Prague) led to better results at more entropic video game levels. This provides evidence of the effect of the environment on human cognition on a global scale, and highlights the importance of urban design in human cognition and brain function.

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The Author's Accepted Manuscript (the accepted version of the manuscript as submitted by the author) may only be posted 6 months after the paper is published, consistent with our self-archiving embargo. Please note that the Author’s Accepted Manuscript may not be released under a Creative Commons license. For Nature Research Terms of Reuse of archived manuscripts please see: http://www.nature.com/authors/policies/license.html#terms