Harvard Study Using Brain Scans Shows Women Wearing Veils get a Healthier Brain
April 9, 2019
CAMBRIDGE – Researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts have just released a new study of the brain scans of several hundred women with a focus on how dress affects their brain health.
Functional imaging was used to scan the brains of several women as they performed a variety of tests. The women who participated performed a variety of tests in their normal “street” clothes first. This acted as the control, or the data to see how the women performed under “normal” circumstances.
Women who normally wear casual clothing such as jeans would then do the tests in business dresses, and women who normally wear business dresses would perform the tests in casual clothing.
They then gave the women the same tests wearing more revealing clothes: bikinis, their underwear and miniskirts. Finally, they asked to perform the same simple tasks wearing Japanese kimonos and then Arab-style veils. This was to give the experiment a cultural element to see if unusual clothing options had an effect on performance.
One surprising find was that modesty helps keep the brain healthy. It shows that after women wear a veil, such as those common in the Middle East, their brain health improves substantially over women who wear revealing clothes.
Scientists performing the study showed that the more modestly a woman dresses, the more relaxed she is and the more she can focus on the task at hand. They also observed that women who dress modestly slept much better. The women had half as many incidents of waking up while sleeping at night after wearing veils as they did after wearing a bikini. The women slept about as well after wearing the kimonos as they did after wearing normal street clothes.
Kelly Field“I was really surprised by how well I performed after wearing the niqab,” Kelly Field, a participant in the study, told us.
A niqab is a type of Muslim veil worn by women around the world but especially in the Gulf States of the Middle East.
“I did better on all of the tests and I slept better, too,” she said.
“And that was just me sitting in a room doing the test with no one else in there and just me wearing whatever it was I was wearing. I’m sure if there had been men in there looking at me in my bikini I wouldn’t have done as well. Maybe I would have done just as well in the niqab,” she added.
Kelly Field concludes “After participating in this study I have now started to wear the veil in most of my daily life, although I have no intensions of becoming a Muslim”, she added.
The study compliments other sources which suggest that veiled women are less stressed and more focused than women who normally wear jeans or business clothes.
Dr. Holland and a colleague “I think the results are significant,” said Dr. Nicole Holland, who led the research team.
“The brain of any person is a whole bunch of atoms, and those atoms determine who you are and what you do,” she said.
“The atoms in one woman’s brain cause her to wear jeans and a T-shirt. The atoms in another woman’s brain cause her to wear a niqab. If the atoms in the first woman’s brain were arranged like the atoms in the second woman’s brain, she would be walking around with her face veiled,” Dr. Holland explained. As the results started to become clearer the women of the research team started to wear veils.
“I now often wear niqab in my private life too, where it doesn’t offend,” Dr. Holland said towards the end of the interview.
The tests the women performed ranged from simple to complex, including solving a simple puzzle in under a minute, balancing a checkbook, and taking a short IQ test.
Neurologists used position emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study how the brain works in women wearing a variety of garments.
The results of the study can be read in full in the new edition of the Harvard Neuroscience Review.
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