BBC Worls Service, My perfect City

NeuroLandscape featured in BBC “My Perfect City”

NeuroLandscape featured in BBC "My Perfect City" Series episode which was released on: 30 Dec 2020

New episode of the BBC World Service "My perfect city" features Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo among other experts.  They discuss Singapore as a city which attempts to improve residents' mental wellbeing through urban design.

Generally, people in cities are likely to experience mental health problems.  This counts for about 38% more than people living outside of big cities. Urban greening and creating therapeutic gardens with contemplative features can really help. But also, promoting high amenity public spaces,  physical exercise, housing security and social services are important too! These solutions can make a city more liveable but also reduce rates of disorders such as OCD, anxiety and depression.

But are these community-based, non-medical approaches enough to improve mental health among the population of the highly urbanized Singapore? Let's find out!

 

Listen to the end to find out if Singapore receives 3 ticks -  a perfect city mark.  This means that Singapore should be an example to follow by other cities!

Taking part in the podcast like this one was a great experience. Thanks to endeavours like this one we can share the knowledge from the scientists and inform the public!

Here are some other blog posts related to Singapore:

  1. Singapore Urban Sustainability MND Congress.
  2. IFLA Conference, Singapore
  3. Neuroscience data collection outdoors
  4. NeuroLandscape featured in BBC "My Perfect City"
NeuroLandscape Board

Annual Scientific Board Meeting 2020

4th NeuroLandscape Scientific Board Meeting took place online on Friday 13th November, 2020.

 

Meeting agenda:

1)  Round table of  updates from each member
2)  A game! -  2 truths and 1 lie
3)  "Summary of NGO activity of 2020 , opportunities for 2021 ( Agnieszka O-G & Agnieszka Ch. -10 min ppt + Q&A)
4)  "Planting seeds of empowerment - summary of activities and future plans (Diana B.  - 10 min ppt + Q&A)
5)  "Virtual Healthy Environments  - research findings  (Nicolas E. - 10 min ppt + Q&A)
6) "Virtual Healthy Environments -  communications" (Weronika G. - 10 min ppt + Q&A)
7) "Developments on CLASS" (Theophrastos M. - 10 min. ppt + Q&A)
8) Discussion topics:
    -  planning for each development of the programs
    - our activity and COVID pandemic
    - dissemination activities/ webinars/ workshops
    -  social media participation of the Board
    -  NGO & Board transformations
Conscious Cities Festival

Healthy Cities – Cities for Humans, Conscious Warsaw 2020 (VIDEO)

A speech presented during the "Conscious Warsaw - Sensing our City" webinar organized by the Center for Conscious Design, which took place on October 22, 2020, in Polish (English subtitles available in this video!).

Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo presented a new concept of designing mentally healthy cities based on contact with salutogenic natural landscapes (Contemplative Landscapes) and introduced the scientific background and activities of her NGO.

The entire webinar is available on https://theccd.org/domain/conscious-warsaw/

Centre for Conscious Design: www.theccd.org

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Affordable Technologies for Evidence Based Studies and Mind Monitoring

The built environment and mental health of the residents within the city are extremely interconnected. Daily exposures are known to influence psychological processes, having both known and unknown consequences. The study of Gary W. Evans from 2003 points out that personal control, social support and restoration from stress and fatigue in the physical environment directly impacts mental health. He also points out the need for evidence-based studies and methods. “Mind Monitoring” is a method to consider in such studies, as this makes bringing out evidence easier. 

Unfortunately, our knowledge of the relation between mind and physical environment, especially in developing countries, is very little. Technology to conduct cross-sectional scientific studies is one of the biggest impedances. 

A lot of devices are making our day to day lives easier, productive and entertaining in innumerous ways. But these are the tools that have the potential to be used in mind monitoring. They make research on environmental impacts on minds more affordable. 

EEG a Mind Monitoring method

EEG stands for electroencephalogram. It is a test to find out and monitor the electrical activity of the brain using various noninvasive electrodes placed across the scalp. EEG electrodes pick up the electrical activity in the user’s brain. And then the collected signals are amplified and digitized and sent to a computer or mobile device for storage and data processing. Recently, these tests have been made affordable with new designs and exploring ways to use smartphones.

Some recent EEG devices

  • NeuroSky launched quite a number of second-generation products, such as MindWave, MindWave Mobile, MindWave Mobile Plus and MindWave Mobile 2. Mindwave Mobile 2 is the most affordable brainwave reading EEG headset. These devices are used in games, education, wellness, research and development.
  • Emotiv products achieved better performance and wider scalp coverage by using a higher number of channels and wet electrodes. This caused Emotiv products to have a more complicated set-up and higher price tag. Some Emotiv products are Insight, EPOC X, MN8 etc. They can provide easy-to-understand feedback on the level of stress and distraction to improve workplace wellness, safety and productivity.
  • Muse is a meditation facilitating device that comes along with a mobile application. Muse 2, Muse S are available having a lot of features. Provides real-time feedback on user’s brain activity, heart rate, breathing and body movements
  • Some other devices, such as: MyndPlay MyndBand, Aurora Dreamband, FocusBand, Neeuro SenzeBand work with various mind monitoring activities. For example: empowering users to train their brains to improve attention, meditation skills, for better sleep, dream clarity etc.

Price comparison

Company Product Release Year Price (USD)
NeuroSky MindWave Mobile 2  2018 199.00
Emotiv INSIGHT 2015 299.00
EPOC X 2020 849.00
MN8 Still in production 
interaXon Muse 2014 199.00
Muse 2 2016 249.00
Muse S 2019 349.00
OpenBCI OpenBCI 2014 349.00 (Ultracortex Mark IV)

399.00 (Electrode Cap)

MyndPlay  Myndband 2014 299.00
Aurora DreamBand 2015 299.00
FocusBand FocusBand 2016 600.00
Neeuro SenzeBand 2016 299.00

The researchers and practitioners of developing countries like Bangladesh or Colombia are not much aware of these EEG solutions. Most of the time the price range would still be unaffordable. But the products provided by NeuroSky,  interaXon and MyndPlay are comparatively less costly and can be affordable for the research and mental health practitioners in Bangladesh.

Summing up, affordable technologies for mind monitoring are now rising.  And a displayable number of multidisciplinary collaborative research and experiments in this sector will increase their potential to a great extent!

Authors: Muntaka Ibnath, Nazwa Tahsin

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The New Urban Normal_Dr Diana’s speech at TecNM (Mexico)_VIDEO

24th September 2020.

Tecnológico Nacional de México, campus Costa Grande, hosted an online event addressing the World New Normal in the interdisciplinary lens.

Dr Diana Benjumea gave a speech regarding architecture and urban planning, where she sets a new paradigm of bottom-up, evidence-based urban design. Moreover,  she introduces NeuroLandscape projects and explains the global implications of the emerging shift in thinking and approaching urban space.

The entire speech and Q&A session are available on youtube! English subtitles coming soon!

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Virtual Healthy Environments: Feasibility Study in Societies Affected by COVID-19 Summary of Results

Between 19 April and 12 May 2020, we ran an online survey titled "VHE for Well-Being".  Our goal was to better understand people's psychological needs, especially the relationship between Covid-19 confinement and mental health. We also aimed to test feasibility and demand for Virtual Healthy Environments (VHE) - our solution for health and well-being. To do this, we developed a questionnaire in five languages: English, Polish, Italian, Spanish and French and shared it through our website and social media (see the call for responses here). Please check out the summary of our work below! A special thank you to all participants who helped us discover these important trends!

Sample Characteristics

We collected 507 (318 female) responses from nearly every continent, but mainly from Europe. Most were from Poland, Spain and Italy, primarily representing two different socio-geographic zones: South-European (Mediterranean) and Central European regions. There were also contributions from France and the UK to help understand Western European trends. 

The respondents were between 19 and 90 years old, with most between 24 and 41 years old (n=294). There were 23 elderly respondents (>65 years old). The largest portion of our respondents was from high-density cities (33%) or large or medium-sized cities (25%). 12% reported living in the suburbs of big cities. This means the majority of respondents (70%) were from the urban population.

Summary of Main Findings

We ran our analysis based on two groups of psychological issues:

1. General mental health & well-being: comprised of the feelings of loneliness, helplessness, isolation, restlessness, sadness or depression, anxiety, worry and uncertainty about the future, higher irritability, and insomnia.

2. Productivity & cognitive performance: comprised of the feeling of boredom, problems with memory, and decreased motivation, productivity and concentration.

    • Men reported less general mental health issues than women, but stronger productivity/cognitive issues. It looks like women cope better with cognitive performance but are worse with general mental health issues than men. However, it is also possible that women were more willing to report these mental health issues as other research suggests.
    • A large majority (85%) of respondents missed meeting with friends and family the most during confinement (Figure 8). Travelling and contact with nature were the second most missed activities with 59% and 58% of people affected, respectively. Over half (53%) of respondents missed events and socialising, 36% missed going to work and/or school and 37% practising sport.

 

  • Percentage of respondents listing each activity in response to the question: "What did you miss the most in the period of confinement?", broken down by gender.

Did people miss nature?

    • In our survey, 58% of people reported missing contact with nature during the confinement period. Interestingly, this was an activity missed equally by men and women; people of all ages, across all income brackets, and levels of education.
    • People living in big cities missed contact with nature significantly more than others (strong link found between city size and missing nature during confinement).
    • Also, self-employed individuals and homemakers reported missing nature significantly more than others.
  • person experiencing the healing benefits of being in nature
    Lack of time in nature was a significant factor during Covid-19 confinement and mental health was negatively affected as a result
  • Other research shows that people are poor at explicitly seeing the positive health effect of nature: it is good for them, but they are not always aware of it. This makes it challenging to capture these effects in self-reported surveys.  This highlights the need for providing education about and evidence for the benefits of exposure to nature on mental health and well-being.

 

Can Virtual Healthy Environments be a Solution?

At NeuroLandscape we are developing a self-care tool based on Virtual Reality (VR) technology and exposure to nature (read more about the project). It is a solution for all those who cannot access healing natural environments as often as they would like to in order to keep their mind healthy. We addressed some survey questions to test the feasibility of our solution. This will be useful to support our research grant applications. Below are some interesting findings we hope will convince the grantors.

  • The vast majority (79%) of respondents declared being interested in VR technology. VR use at home and during potential future confinement periods was the preferred situation.
  • People who declared missing travelling were more likely to try Virtual Healthy Environments.
  • Women, in general, reported greater interest in using VR for contact with nature and self-care activities than men (32% vs. 17% for contact with nature), while men preferred VR for games and movies.
"For what activities would you use VR technology?" - Percentage of individuals who listed each activity, broken down by gender.

 

Other interesting findings

Overall, people reported a decline in mental health and wellbeing due to confinement. However, the effect was not incremental over time (more time confined did not correlate with worse mental health and wellbeing). Our respondents missed meeting friends and family the most, followed by travelling, socializing, and contact with nature. The least missed activity was shopping. Nature was missed more by urban than rural dwellers, but it was equally missed by men and women, people of all ages, across all income brackets, and levels of education. Interestingly,  people who missed going to work or school reported worsened productivity and cognitive performance as a consequence of confinement.

Conclusions

This survey has more clearly defined the relationship between Covid-19 confinement and mental health. Respondents were not only able to self-report the effects on their mood, but also shared the degree to which specific activities were missed. These findings were useful in evaluating the potential of the VHE app in helping to mitigate the negative effects of adverse stressful circumstances (such as the confinement period). They show it could be effective to provide a digital tool based on VR for improving mental health.

We would like to thank all participants of the survey!

Survey and Report Authors : Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo, Dr Nicolas Escoffier, Dr Weronika Gąsior, Agnieszka Chadała. Full text of the report available through info@neurolandscape.org

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Designing & Using School Grounds to Support Mental Health (Video Available!)

The video from the webinar is already available on! The webinar organized by the International School Grounds Alliance and the Children &Nature Network on how school grounds can be designed and used to support took place on June 23rd 2020, and featured research and design insights on how to design mentally healthy outdoor spaces for children.

Everyone interested in design for children will find a lot of inspiration in this video, in other words it's a must-see! We are very proud and grateful that NeuroLandscape could be a part of this insightful panel!

The program featured:

  1. an introduction to the ISGA activity by Kerry Logan;
  2. showcasing international best-practice examples, by Kathrin Schmiele;
  3. research and design lessons from neuroscience by Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo;
  4. strategies for the design of schoolyards for students Claire Latané.

Related post

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Designing School Grounds to Support Children’s Mental Health: Examples from Around the World

24th June 2020
9:00 AM Singapore Standard Time.

Daily contact with nature is vital for supporting the mental health and well-being of children and young people. Join the International School Grounds Alliance and the Children & Nature Network for this webinar that will focus on how school grounds can be designed and used to support mental health.

The content will cover an introduction by Jaime Zaplatosch; and the work of ISGA by Kerry Logan; I will emphasize the importance of the topic and present a video showcasing international best-practice examples, followed by a presentation on the lessons from the neuroscience research by NeuroLandscape President Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo , finalized by a presentation on design strategies that reduce stress and anxiety and boost mental health and community by Claire Latané.

At the end we will have a Q&A session and an exciting DRAW together exercise!

For those who cannot attend at this time, the webinar will be recorded and share through the NeuroLandscape Youtube Channel.

Register for free here!
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Mental Health is also important – something about the connection with nature in the times of confinement

Landscape architects and urban ecology researchers have always been trying to bring people more to the outdoors, make the most of urban parks and gardens, calling the public attention to issues such as nature deficit disorder, mental health consequences from spending our time mostly indoors, looking at phones or monitors…

Today, the situation is calling for staying at home out of social responsibility or simply following the new regulations.  Those who haven’t got a garden, those who live in dense cities are being completely disconnected from nature. Many countries, such as Poland for example, have banned access to any forests, parks and gardens for all citizens in the cities or in the countryside.

There is a lot of shaming going on for those who leave homes to get a walk outside.  It is in fact socially irresponsible to go out now and risk spreading the virus to others.

As this is not the post to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. It is rather to remind ourselves of the psychological consequences of social distancing, self-isolation and disconnection with nature that we all are facing now.

Many of us will feel lonely, bored and stuck; our motivation to work, productivity and ability to concentrate on tasks may decrease. We may experience restlessness and insomnia, depression, anxiety and high irritability. All these are typical for “cabin fever syndrome”, and fit very well to what we’re facing today.  Adding the worry and uncertainty about the future on the top of this doesn’t make it better…

Getting out from home, and even unconscious contact with nature (being under the sky, feeling the slight breeze of wind, seeing flowers or trees) can have a powerful positive effect on us today. Nature can help us keep sane and grounded. If you cannot go outside, spend time on the balcony, gaze outside the window, observe the moving clouds, or leaves dancing with the wind. Even observing the daylight moving along the daily cycle gives some connection to the environment outside.

Conscious practice of the connection with nature can help you keep mental health hygiene in these difficult times.

Stay healthy and sane everyone!

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Connecting Social and Urban Studies with Health and Well-being of Communities – Speech at the National University of Colombia in Manizales

On January 29th 2020 NeuroLandscape’s Board Member Dr. Diana Benjumea was invited to give a talk in the Universidad Nacional de Colombia to the staff and students of the Department of Architecture and Built Environment in the city of Manizales.

The talk aimed to share the multidisciplinary work that is conducted in NeuroLandscape with special attention to the new program  Nature Connection and Mental Health of the Communities launched last year.

The information included some of the preliminary study results obtained from the two main international research clusters in Medellin (Colombia) and Dhaka (Bangladesh). The presentation discussed the social and scientific research approaches that NeuroLandscape is leading in order to understand the contribution of nature in the mental health of low-income communities with the aim of informing new urban design models.  

Staff from the Universidad de Caldas Manizales and the National Training Service (SENA) joined in the discussion of creating possible cooperation between institutions and NeuroLanscape in order to consolidate future social and scientific projects in the city of Manizales that could contribute to the health and well-being of the communities in this city.

With combined efforts from the educational institutions and the scientific background of Neurolandscape, future projects are envisioned, in which a greater network of opportunities that include new research projects and transfer skills education programs could be established with the aim of benefiting low-income community residents.