Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Volume 474 Issue 7352, 23 June 2011

By 2050, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in cities. Although city living has many advantages, rapidly increasing urbanization has major health implications — schizophrenia is more common in people born in cities than in those from less heavily populated districts, and living in cities increases the rates of depression and anxiety disorders. It has been suggested that social stress plays a part in these effects, but the mechanisms involved are unknown. Now, in a study of healthy German volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a key brain structure for negative emotion (the amygdala) was found to be more active during stress in city dwellers, and a regulatory brain area (the cingulate cortex) more active in people born in cities. These results identify potential mechanisms linking social environment and mental illness, and might contribute to planning healthier urban surroundings. Cover image: O. Dusegård/Getty.

Postdoc Journal


  • Editorial |

    A critique of the work of Stephen Jay Gould should serve as encouragement to scrutinize the celebrated while they are still alive.

  • Editorial |

    An industry approach to greener hydropower is far from perfect, but it does offer a way forwards.

  • Editorial |

    A quantitative approach to the humanities enriches research.

World View

  • World View |

    Monday's key US legal decision on emissions regulation was influenced by the unjustified attacks on climate science, says Douglas Kysar.

    • Douglas Kysar

Research Highlights

Seven Days


  • News |

    Voluntary agreement enables rating of hydroelectric impacts.

    • Jeff Tollefson
  • News |

    In the latest trend in scientific discourse, journal clubs and data disclosures move to Twitter.

    • Eugenie Samuel Reich
  • News |

    The pharmaceutical industry is seeking stronger ties with academia in a bid to speed up drug development.

    • Heidi Ledford


News Feature

  • News Feature |

    By mining a database of the world's books, Erez Lieberman Aiden is attempting to automate much of humanities research. But is the field ready to be digitized?

    • Eric Hand


  • Comment |

    A staggering lack of undersea data hampers our understanding of earthquakes and tsunamis. Geophysicists must put more instruments offshore, says Andrew V. Newman.

    • Andrew V. Newman

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Religions and superstitions may stem from the brain's ability to spot patterns and intent, finds A. C. Grayling.

    • A. C. Grayling
  • Books & Arts |

    Michael Sargent enjoys a social history of how height and lifespan increased during the Industrial Revolution.

    • Michael Sargent
  • Books & Arts |

    A Monaco exhibition showcases the marvels of the city-state's oceanic museum, discovers Alison Abbott.

    • Alison Abbott


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Many of us were raised or currently live in an urban environment. A neuroimaging study now reveals how this affects brain function when an individual is faced with a stressful situation. See Letter p.498

    • Daniel P. Kennedy
    • Ralph Adolphs


  • News & Views |

    In systems consisting of just a few layers of graphene, the relative orientation of adjacent layers depends on the material's preparation method. Light has now been shed on the relationship between stacking arrangement and electronic properties.

    • Allan H. MacDonald
    • Rafi Bistritzer
  • News & Views |

    A high-fat diet often leads to metabolic disorders such as diabetes, fatty liver disease and obesity. One lipid, however, might mitigate these effects through an unexpected signalling role in the nucleus. See Letter p.506

    • Holly A. Ingraham
  • News & Views |

    Quantum correlations between the parts of composite systems have long fascinated physicists. There is now compelling evidence that such correlations can also occur in systems in which no parts can be identified. See Letter p.490

    • Adán Cabello
  • News & Views |

    There are well-known aerodynamic and energetic benefits to flying in an orderly formation. By contrast, it seems that the flocking flight seen in pigeons is metabolically expensive. So why do they do it? See Letter p.494

    • Geoffrey Spedding
  • News & Views |

    Nature crafts many molecules from common precursors, but this approach isn't always possible in chemical synthesis. A strategy for synthesizing a family of natural products succeeds by ignoring nature's blueprint. See Article p.461

    • Stéphane Quideau





  • Column |

    A tax-law change has dealt a heavy blow to Canadian postdocs, argues Lucie Low

    • Lucie Low


  • Futures |

    Evolution in action.

    • João Ramalho-Santos


  • Outlook |

    • Michelle Grayson
  • Outlook |

    Proponents of biomass-based fuels push for sustainability against a steady tide of conflicting analysis, but can advanced biofuels cut the mustard?

    • Peter Fairley
  • Outlook |

    The most controversial aspect of biofuels is the perceived competition for farmland. Will advances in biofuels and agriculture send this trade-off speeding towards the history books?

    • Duncan Graham-Rowe
  • Outlook |

    The inedible parts of plants are feeding the next generation of biofuels. But extracting the energy-containing molecules is a challenging task.

    • Katharine Sanderson
  • Outlook |

    The green slime that covers ponds is an efficient factory for turning sunlight into fuel, but growing it on an industrial scale will take ingenuity.

    • Neil Savage
  • Outlook |

    Shifting from corn to perennial crops in making biofuels is essential to save clean water, argues Jeremy Martin

    • Jeremy Martin
  • Outlook |

    Biofuels could help poor nations modernize, but scaling up aid supported projects to commercial operations is far from easy.

    • Natasha Gilbert
  • Outlook |

    Bioenergy could help bring food security to the world's poorest continent, say Lee R. Lynd and Jeremy Woods.

    • Lee R. Lynd
    • Jeremy Woods
  • Outlook |

    Biofuels have been hailed as key to reducing our fossil-fuel dependence, yet their environmental and social impacts remain uncertain. A complex task lies ahead for policy makers.

    • Martin Robbins
  • Outlook |

    Thirty five years of experience has taught one of the world's leading biofuels producers several essential lessons, which other countries should heed, says Marcia Moraes.

    • Marcia Moraes

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |


    Biofuels have big boots to fill. After more than 150 years, we have become dependent on petroleum and its products. First generation biofuels are showing us both the potential and the pitfalls of this sustainable technology — second and subsequent generations could help us realize a fossil-fuel-free future.

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing


Quick links