In a recent study scientists from Brighton and Sussex Medical School exposed their participants to sounds from artificial and natural environments, while the activity of their brain and nervous system was tracked and recorded with an MRT scanner.
A fundamental difference in the activity of the so-called Default Mode Network (DMN), a rest-digest autonomic nervous system, in the brain was found. While natural sounds created an outward focus of attention, artificial environments caused the opposite: the participants focused inwards, similar to anxiety, stress or posttraumatic states.
A notable fact: participants with the highest-ranking stress levels at the beginning of the experiment had the greatest measured relaxation after being exposed to recorded natural sounds. Nature seems to be, in fact, one of the most effective and – undoubtedly – the most comfortable approach to stress reduction.
Cassandra D. Gould van Praag, Sarah N. Garfinkel, Oliver Sparasci, Alex Mees, Andrew O. Philippides, Mark Ware, Cristina Ottaviani, Hugo D. Critchley. Mind-wandering and alterations to default mode network connectivity when listening to naturalistic versus artificial sounds. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 45273 DOI: 10.1038/srep45273