river-urban

RIVER. A powerful landscape component 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.

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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.