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Pressure gets to you

作者:文嗡    发布时间:2019-03-07 13:17:02    

By Matt Walker BLAMING poor performance on “something in the air” could be a legitimate excuse, say researchers in the Ukraine. They have found that minute variations in air pressure can affect people’s thinking. Atmospheric disturbances such as storms can cause air pressure to fluctuate several times a minute. Such pressure pulses occur in most parts of the world every few days, says Anatoly Delyukov, a physicist at the Taras Shevchenko Kiev University. “You can see them as a slow trembling of a barometer needle.” Delyukov has been monitoring these atmospheric pressure perturbations, or APPs, around Kiev since 1996. Last year, he and an international team of researchers reported that an increase in the intensity of APPs caused peoples’ hearts to beat faster. Now Delyukov and Lyudmila Didyk have found that these fluctuations can affect mental activity as well. They asked 12 volunteers to perform a range of mental exercises, such as proofreading and memorisation, on days when ambient APPs were minimal. During the exercises, the researchers occasionally generated APPs in the test room with a hidden ventilator. The pulses had frequencies between 15 and 90 seconds, and had intensities of less than one thousandth of atmospheric pressure. Each volunteer performed the tests several times without knowing whether the pulse-generating machine was on or off. As Delyukov and Didyk report in the current International Journal of Biometeorology (vol 43, p 31), the oscillations sometimes helped and sometimes hindered performance, depending on the volunteer’s mental state. Tired or sleepy volunteers did worse, Delyukov says, because they became so relaxed that their mental activity slowed down across the board. However, the same pulses made alert volunteers more efficient. When the pressure pulsed twice per minute, they could recall objects with 30 per cent greater accuracy and proofread text 6 per cent faster. Random, nonperiodical oscillations, which also occur naturally, interfered with the concentration of all the subjects, and led some volunteers to complain that “something prevented them from performing the task better,” according to Delyukov. Just how atmospheric phenomena affect mental activity remains a puzzle, comments, Delyukov. He speculates that the body senses changes in air pressure to help stabilise blood pressure,

 

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