river-urban

RIVER. A powerful landscape component for restoring the human nervous system.

The more we know about the interactions between the landscape and human nervous system the better we can plan and design our living environments to serve our health.

With water being the essential component of any form of life, it is not surprising that it also influence our psychophysiological response, even if we are just passively exposed to it.  But what kind of water feature, and what do we have to do with this water to achieve this response? This is a question that scientists (NeuroLandscape included) have been trying to answer.

Let’s concentrate on the river. According to Jungian dream analysis, based on his theory of collective unconscious, the river is a symbol of death and rebirth (baptism), the flowing of time into eternity, transitional phases of the life cycle, and incarnations of deities. In Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo’s research river is one of the archetypal elements making the landscape “contemplative” and therefore therapeutical.

In the fMRI study from 2017 the team of Prof Chang, Chun-Yen (National Taiwan University) discovered that the passive exposure to the river views alters the brain functioning significantly, when compared to the urban views (see the image above).

The brain activity related to the “urban versus water ” contract was located in the left and right cuneus (Fig. 5).
The cuneus is primarily known for its involvement in basic visual processing. Furthermore, the right cingulate gyrus and left precuneus were also activated. These regions, which are part of Brodmann area 31 (BA31) and known as the dorsal
posterior cingulate cortex, are assumed to influence the focus of attention by adjusting whole-brain metastability (Leech & Sharp, 2014).   – Tang et.al 2017

It looks like there is nothing better for our nerves fatigues from all day in the office or and after several hours commuting through the urban jungle than walk along the riverfront immersing with our senses into the soothing flow of the waters.

 

 

Scientific references:

Olszewska, A. A., Marques, P. F., Ryan, R. L., & Barbosa, F. (2018). What makes a landscape contemplative?. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science45(1), 7-25.

Leech, R., & Sharp, D. J. (2014). The role of the posterior cingulate cortex in cognition and disease. Brain, 137(1), 12–32.

Tang, I. C., Tsai, Y. P., Lin, Y. J., Chen, J. H., Hsieh, C. H., Hung, S. H., … & Chang, C. Y. (2017). Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to analyze brain region activity when viewing landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning162, 137-144.

brain

Scenic vs urban landscapes

A lot of studies have been performed comparing the reaction to  urban vs scenic, or natural landscapes in the lab.  This is one of them and we decided to feature it because it is performed with the most advanced method of brain scanning that we know thus far , fMRI.

From the figure we can see with the naked eye a difference between the pattern of activity when exposed to scenic (A) and urban (B) pictures.

The paper did not provide the stimuli photographs, which would be very important to see… Are they contemplative landscapes? Are they possible to design and implement in our cities? …

Interestingly enough, this study acknowledges that the benefits from inducing this particular brain activity come from just passive observation of images, which are far from the real landscape immersion.

Certain benefits may be derived from exposure to virtual versions of the natural environment, too. For example, people who were shown pictures of scenic, natural environments had increased brain activity in the region associated with recalling happy memories, compared to people that were shown pictures of urban landscapes.

Source: Kim, G. W., Jeong, G. W., Kim, T. H., Baek, H. S., Oh, S. K., Kang, H. K., … & Song, J. K. (2010). Functional neuroanatomy associated with natural and urban scenic views in the human brain: 3.0 T functional MR imaging. Korean Journal of Radiology11(5), 507-513.

pichouzz

NeuroURBANISM, NeuroARCHITECTURE, NeuroLANDSCAPE!

Many aspects of our lives are far more interlinked than we normally imagine. Breakthroughs in neuroscience have made these links even more sensible than ever.

Read more at the practical design and construction site Houzz, how nouroarchitecture can look like in practice.

Photo credits: #Houzz

download

Neuro-urbanism & Neuro-landscape

A new term has officially been introduced in the scientific world – NEUROURBANISM.  It happened together with the  publication in Lancet in Psychiatry in March 2017 [link here].  City life has a lot to do with the psychiatric conditions , and this is the path we have been following in NeuroLandscape as well.

Our cities are growing and we know: City life influences our behavior, our emotions and our psychological well-being. The brain of an urban dweller reacts differently to social stress than that of a rural dweller. Whether this is also the reason for the aggregation of some stress sequelae in cities is a question that we want to answer with Neuro-Urbanism, a new discipline assembling neurologists, urban researchers and architects. 

-Dr Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin

We are happy to get involved with the development of this new discipline in regard to urban nature, and the quality of urban environment. We are looking forward to join forces and connect with the interdisciplinary forum of Neurourbanism in Germany.

 

hhh

Healthy Landscape Workshop, NTU, Taipei, Taiwan

It was a delightful and very interesting stay in Taipei, Taiwan.  We went to visit “Healthy Landscapes x Healthy People Lab” ran by Prof Chun-Yen Chan, after he invited us during the IFLA conference in Singapore (networking works wonders!).  Me and Nicolas were happy to join the 2 hour sharing session and the workshop organized at the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture of the National Taiwan University.

    

We got to know all students and researchers involved in the Healthy Landscape x Healthy People Lab, to find out, that their research is so much connected to what we are doing or willing to do at NeuroLandscape.  The range of topics was impressive: from investigating of the soundscape to creative design process, using very rigorous methods including fMRI scans, biofeedback instruments among others.

Finally the talk of Professor Chang, who is clearly the heart and good spirit of his team, brought us through key findings and ongoing research in the area. It was great to share our mission, activities and scientific approach with like-minded people and find the world’s hot-spot for research on landscape design and health.

We would like to share more findings and activities from Prof Chang’s lab, and find ways to collaborate in the future. Thank you so much for having us at NTU!

    

Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo is the President and Founder of NeuroLandscape. She is a Ph.D. in landscape architecture and urban ecology, who has explored the relationship between the different features of the natural and built environment’s influence on human health and wellbeing. In her research she has successfully incorporated neuroscience tools to investigate the changes in brainwave oscillation in participants exposed to different types of designed landscape. She has introduced and operationalized the term contemplative landscape and proposed a quantitative assessment scale to distinguish landscape views according to which are most beneficial for mental health in terms of passive exposure. She has developed several research projects worldwide and established international research networks across multiple universities. She is an originator of the idea for the VR_HEATHER project, which builds upon her research and is also in line with the statutory goals of NeuroLandscape.

© SingEx | Photography by Lionel Lin

Window View and the Brain – study results

Most people in Asian biggest metropolitan areas live above the ground in multi-storey buildings. Here in Singapore residential blocks can reach up to 50+ floors! Developers try to fit as many housing units on small plots of lands without the consideration of what will be the view from the window. Well, maybe it is about the time for them to reflect on that.

This newest study from researchers of NeuroLandscape shows that the window views depending of the floor level and the amount of visible green can affect the brain activity in a positive or negative way.  This goes along with the scientists claim that the daily passive exposures to the living environment can have tremendous impact on our mental health.

Check out your window view!

Update! The paper from this study is already published online in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, click here to read!

Feel Free Garden 3

Gardens for Mental Health – Lessons from Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_1)

Design Well, Live Healthy

Being around trees, shrubs and other plants improves people’s mental health and give us more positive outlook onto our lives. Spending time outside every day, decreases the risk of being depressed or stressed, and thus burden on our mental health is greatly reduced. The power of plants for our physical and mental wellbeing is currently one of main topic in social media and many events related to the built environment industry which also affects current trends in landscape architecture and garden design.

With health and wellbeing now so high profile, it looks like there has never been a better time to concentrate on the role gardens should play in promoting it. One of the best example is the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s most famous  gardens show, leading celebration of horticultural excellence and innovation, where great potential of plants to enhance mood and aid recovery was a main theme this year.

One of the main gardens RHS Feel Good Garden was designed as contemporary, therapeutic space, where people can relax, forget about daily, stressful life and benefit by beauty of surrounding green space. The designer presents here very elegant balance of beautiful, restrained planting with interesting, modern stonework which puts space users at complete ease. Relaxing oasis with a sense of tranquility is what I thought and felt when entered Feel Good Garden in a sunny May afternoon.

The richness of plants, its colours, shapes favors collecting positive energy and facing our life with more optimism and power. There is no straight lines and geometry what can make people feel more stressed and forced through the garden. As more wild-looking green space is as better for mental health, that is why planting here has more organic and natural form. A meandering path built with different materials should encourage us to stop focusing on the mind and focus on where we are going. Visitors feel free and welcome to walking around, calmly, at their own pace. Additional points appearing along the way inspire to linger and admire each detail of this lovely space.

At any time we can rest by having a sit on one of stone benches in arch and oval shapes and through specially created gaps in planting observe other parts of the garden and its users. Designer gave a great importance to herbs stimulating our senses as well as created the opportunity to listen to the soothing sound of ornamental grasses. Iris ‘Black Tie Affair’ with its very deep purple, almost black flowers attracts a great attention, forces you to stop, look and reflect.

Design also includes trees such as very tall Cercis siliquastrum and Gleditsia triacanthos which can be helpful for people who have problems with anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence or just too much stress. They tend to seek for security under a “roof” of the tree canopy – that kind of security that brings the possibility to observe the rest of garden at the same time, without blocking the views. The layout of the garden encourage users to interact and engage with the plants and other people in a perfect way.

Noteworthy, I find it a wonderful idea to relocate this garden after the show, to the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust with the aim of providing a place where patients as well as staff can garden, relax and socialize while being close to nature!
Gardening and spending active time in nature will definitely give them sense of purpose but also feeling of responsibility and achievement.

Having something to care for, such as plants, gives you a sense of purpose, a feeling that’s so important for those struggling with mental health issues, says the designer – Matt Keightley

 

Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo is the President and Founder of NeuroLandscape. She is a Ph.D. in landscape architecture and urban ecology, who has explored the relationship between the different features of the natural and built environment’s influence on human health and wellbeing. In her research she has successfully incorporated neuroscience tools to investigate the changes in brainwave oscillation in participants exposed to different types of designed landscape. She has introduced and operationalized the term contemplative landscape and proposed a quantitative assessment scale to distinguish landscape views according to which are most beneficial for mental health in terms of passive exposure. She has developed several research projects worldwide and established international research networks across multiple universities. She is an originator of the idea for the VR_HEATHER project, which builds upon her research and is also in line with the statutory goals of NeuroLandscape.