Doctoral Thesis “Contemplative Values of Urban Parks and Gardens: Applying Neuroscience to Landscape Architecture”

Doctoral Thesis titled “ Contemplative Values of Urban Parks and Gardens: Applying Neuroscience to Landscape Architecture” has been defended!

On 22 July 2016 the first PhD thesis joining together methods of neuroscience and landscape architecture has been defended at the Faculty of Science, University of Porto, Portugal. Agnieszka Anna Olszewska, author and founder of Neuro-Landscape managed to get to the end of the doctoral track, defend her thesis with an excellent result (“excellente com distinção”), and most importantly, cleared the path for further research in the area.

Among others important ways that the urban landscape can serve us there is its powerful impact on our mental health and well-being. Research attempts like that will help bringing researchers, designers and policy makers closer to accepting this fact as a common sense.


PhD thesis summary:

“This thesis presents research about the contemplative values of the landscape settings that can be found and designed in contemporary cities. The research focuses on how these contemplative values can influence human brain activity, which may contribute to the improvement of mental health and well-being, as well as the overall quality of life, in urbanized areas. The investigation consists of two complimentary studies, each of which applies different methods and approaches. The first study sought after identification of the contemplative features of the landscape, meaning all the factors that make the particular landscape a contemplative one.

The tool used to establish these factors was an expert classification of the landscapes using the Contemplative Landscape Questionnaire (CLQ). This study resulted in a set of landscape photos ranked according to their contemplativeness. In addition, the CLQ was tested for its reliability and validity measures, and showed satisfactory results.

The second study was a neuroscientific laboratory experiment, which attempted to prove that the brain activity pattern while observing the landscapes classified as the most contemplative is similar to the patterns associated with the state of mindfulness (associated with left frontal alpha and theta activity). The study had the form of an electroencephalography (EEG) laboratory experiment, in which the six most contemplative and the six non-contemplative landscape settings (presented in the form of 3D images) were displayed in two blocks of stimuli to 32 subjects, while simultaneous EEG signal recording was performed.

The experiment showed that the brainwave pattern that occurred while viewing the most contemplative landscapes cannot be associated with the patterns of mindfulness currently established, which proves the hypothesis false. Nevertheless, supplementary analyses showed that the most contemplative landscape images induced significantly stronger activation of the brain in right temporal regions, compared to the non-contemplative ones. This suggests alterations in the attention mechanisms that the contemplative landscapes may have induced. Moreover, we observed higher activation on the left frontal lobe while observing both types of landscapes (which is associated with positive emotional states), with the contemplative landscapes showing an increased trend to induce this phenomenon.

The presented research confirms that contemplative landscape designs can influence the brain activity patterns of the people viewing them. Applying methods of neuroscience to landscape architecture is an innovative approach, and could help create principles of evidence-based design that would contribute to the continuous endeavor of improving the quality of life in urbanized areas.”


International Conference on Control and Automation, Athens, Greece

The first public presentation of the prototype of the Contemplative Landscapes Automated Scoring System (CLASS) was presented by our research team on the international IEEE conference in Athens, Greece between 21 and 24 of June.

Watch a short report from this event and listen to the lecture given by our leading artificial intelligence and machine learning consultant Theophrastos Mantadelis


Finals of the National Business Plan Competition, iUP25k, University of Porto

Neuro-Landscape in the Finals of the National Business Plan Competition!

As the idea of Neuro-Landscape and how it may serve people emerged, we felt a need of confronting it with the reality of the market. This is why we took part in the Business Plan competition organized by the University of Porto for its alumni students.

The competition iUP25k is organized every year since 2013 and besides the competition itself offers support with the development of the business idea, presentation and networking.

We went through all stages of evaluation of proposals, and got to the Finals!
We were invited to the first pitch session at the University of Porto. After successfully passing this stage we were invited to 2-day workshop in order to polish the sharp edges of our business model, prepare the product, and set up the most important milestones for future. After that we took part in the “Pitch me up” workshop in order to prepare the best possible finals pitch.

We received a lot of feedback and suggestions from people that are for many years deeply rooted in business scene in Portugal but also internationally, who know the theory and practice. The final pitch took place in a iconic “Casa do Infante” in Porto Old city center. The link to the pitch video below:

While waiting for the final verdict we summed up all the reflections collected during the process. All in all, our idea does not fit in the competitive rat race of business world, it is rather an idea of sharing our knowledge, of how to inform people to make their life easier, and promote solutions for mental health issues.

That is why regardless of what the final verdict will be, Neuro-Landscape will never be a profit- oriented enterprise but rather a non-profit, pro publico bono organization.

We still value and appreciate the experience gained during the iUP25k competition, going through all the stages, and meeting wonderful people there. We are glad and honored that our idea got to the top finals!!

Watch promotional video

SBE 26 Fev 2016

The Landscapes and the Brain Seminar, Vairão, Portugal, 2016

The latest seminar on the results of 5-year long studies on the contemplative landscapes and how do they influence the brain activity. Results of the experiment first time revealed in public in CIBIO Research Center, Vairão, Portugal.
A very exciting moment for a PhD candidate (A.Olszewska) to present the findings of her doctoral research to wider public. This has happened at the CiBiO research center in the campus located north from Porto city.

During 1 hour seminar public could hear in detail about all of the methods and procedures as well as the findings from the 4 year research on “Contemplative Values of Urban Parks and gardens: Applying Neuroscience to Landscape Architecture”.

In the Q&A session a lot of interesting questions was posed, and also a lot of suggestions and ideas of how to apply the discovered matters were shared. Definitely a very interesting session that deserved to be recorded.

Watch the video from the seminar