Do you feel a bit foggy in the dead of winter? It's not just the cold weather getting you down. According to a small January 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the season may have an effect on how your brain works.
Researchers from the University of Liège in Belgium brought 28 healthy, young participants into their lab for four and a half days, removing all seasonal cues like light, knowing what time it was, and contact with the outside world. The participants kept a normal sleep schedule before the study, and then went through cycles of sleep deprivation and recovery in the lab.
Throughout their days in the lab, researchers monitored the participants' brain activity using functional MRI as the participants performed tasks related to sustained attention and memory. They repeated the study with the same participants several times throughout the year to measure how the responses changed in different seasons.
For the most part, the participants' performance on the tasks didn't change throughout the year; however, the participants' brain activity while performing the tasks differed at certain times of the year. The researchers found that brain activity while performing the sustained-attention tasks peaked during the summer and dipped during the winter. And when it came to memory, the most brain activity was in the autumn and the least was in the spring.
The study is limited because it was small and preliminary, and only showed an association between your brain and the seasons, not a reason for a link. But Scientific American notes that it could help people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder and other mood disorders that fluctuate through the year. Plus, it's a relief to people like me, who kept pausing to check Twitter while writing this article. It's the winter's fault, not mine!