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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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An exclusive interview with Professor Chang, Chun-Yen, NTU, UIUC

Happy to share the newest interview from one of the world’s leading experts in the area of evidence-based landscape design, Prof. Chang, Chun-Yen from National Taiwan University.
Professor Chang’s background is in landscape architecture, but his research interests have led him far beyond this discipline into examining the relationships between landscapes and human health in multidisciplinary teams. He is the Director of the “Laboratory of Healthy Landscape Healthy People East” at NTU, which is cooperating with a western group from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
 
We had the pleasure to speak to Professor Chang after his presentation at the IFLA World Congress 2018 in Singapore, and ask him questions about the newest research endeavors of his team, the demands and limitations of clinical studies on landscapes, the challenges of interdisciplinary research and future opportunities in the area.

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Interview with Gayle Souter-Brown

Our first update of IFLA 2018 is an exclusive interview with Gayle Souter-Brown. Gayle is a Principle  of Greenstone Design UK & Ecological Victoria University of Wellington, landscape architect, writer and researcher.  This interview will share her experiences in the social, economic, and environmental benefits of developing green space for health and well being,

For more information on IFLA 2018, click here: http://neurolandscape.org/2018/07/13/ifla-world-congress-singapore-2018/

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Virtual Reality Applications

Virtual Reality (VR) has long been a subject of interest for many to be the next phase of immersive entertainment. While many see it as an unnecessary gimmick, VR was never just a fad.  With history dating as early as the 1860’s, VR has time and time again resurfaced more advanced and more capable.

In 2016, IKEA took their furniture experience a step further  with Virtual Reality Kitchens.  This  effectively means that anyone can sample countless different iterations of their own kitchen. This could allow customers to make well informed decisions before they make their purchasers. Yet, this application is not limited to kitchens only. With the application of VR, it is possible to recreate many external events indoors, including contemplative landscapes. While current capabilities may not be fully optimized, the potential for VR to recreate the theraputic experiences of contemplative landscapes is a exploration worth investing in.

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EKLIPSE Expert meeting, London

This is an interview with three members of EKLIPSE project talking about the latest Expert Group meeting in London which brought us closer to the final output of a project related to answering the question on which types and components of urban green and blue spaces have significant influence on human mental health and well-being.

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A Place for Yourself Everywhere.

Research has proven that time alone in outdoor nature is beneficial for our mental and physical health.  One of the Contemplative Landscape characteristics is the “sense of solitude” that one can experience when immersed in the landscape.

Yet, the urban high stress pace of life “enjoyed” by many across the globe makes finding such a spot difficult. While it is common for cities to increase their foliage, it is often hard to measure how effective their efforts are.

However, here at NeuroLandscape, our research allows up to strive further in incorporate nature into our own everyday surroundings. Creating a seamless experience that can be enjoyed by all who inhabit the same space.

You can also assess the link from here: https://www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2018/6/9/-spending-time-alone-in-nature-is-good-for-your-mental-and-emotional-health

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Horizon 2020 Proposal Submitted!

 

From December until now has been a real marathon: 2 workshops, 8 European partners, 150 pages, dozens of meetings (real and online), tons of work and research done...whew!

Before all thought and reflections from this time fade away, I wanted to share some of the experiences here, as a guide for those eyeing the possibility of submitting their own proposal.

So, first of all, Horizon 2020 is a large scale research funding initiative in Europe, and it covers many themes and platforms for research and innovation in different areas of science, technology and business. More info about it can be found here: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/

It is not, as many think, only directed to researchers and research institutions as small and large companies are also encouraged to participate. The more practical the outcomes are for the real world, the better. What the European Commission wants to see are funded projects that change Europe through solving different kinds of problems and advancing knowledge in the areas where there are still gaps.

At the very beginning, a half year ago, we knew very little about this program. We weren’t even sure if it was also directed at NGOs, and if NeuroLandscape was eligible for funding. Various sources on the internet were saying that NGOs can participate only in some very limited number of initiatives of H2020.

However, this was incorrect. NGOs are completely eligible to participate and request 100% funding for research activities the same as other legal institutions (or even individuals!). The only requirement is to submit an extraordinarily great proposal and beat the overwhelming competition.

So here is when we started working on our proposal. (I’ll leave out the nitty gritty details. We can explore those when and if the proposal is finally accepted). This was an intensive and challenging experience to prepare to say the least. No joking around with the European Commission!

This is what we did, and what anyone who starts their adventure with H2020 should probably do to submit the proposal successfully.

1) Conceptualize the ground-breaking idea. This may be self-explanatory, but important not to forget.

2) Go to the workshops. Each of the European countries has an NCP (National Contact Point) to help candidates prepare the proposals correctly through the organization of very helpful meetings and workshops. We went to one organized in Warsaw, Poland and also… in Singapore (Europe is also expanding across the continent to Asia!)

3) Find consortium partners. This is probably the most challenging part, because partners should fit perfectly to your idea, represent at least 3 EU countries, and be great people that you will want to work with after the project starts. For us, it meant a lot of meetings and discussions with many different people.

4) Read tons of materials online about Horizon 2020 rules. Unfortunately, this is a lot of work, so you’ll need several people involved in this. Read, learn, share with your team, discuss, and keep an eye on updates, because not all outdated rules are gone from the web.

5) Get familiar with the participant portal. You will need to know it by heart in case of last minute emergencies or technical problems. (Something we encountered right before the deadline, unfortunately).

6) Write a proposal. There are a lot of tips online and at each NCP about how to write a successful proposal. However, nobody will provide you with an example of a successful proposal. This is a closely guarded secret of the EU, I guess. Nevertheless, we found a helpful document: http://www.health2market.eu/documents/ARIaT_annotated%20template%20H2020_innovation.pdf

7) Plan the budget. Planning a general estimated budget actually requires thinking about the details first. Each little thing can really add up. As they say, the devil’s in the details.

8) Consult about your proposal. We consulted over our proposal with two NCPs from Poland and the Netherlands. And guess what? The feedback we received each time was different, but not conflicting, which was helpful.

9) Submit. Here’s an important tip – Never leave it till the last minute. The European Portal advises submission 48 hours before the deadline. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage this, due to some administration processes still not completed from the coordinator’s side. On the day of deadline, as one could expect, the system was overloaded and we were unable to edit or submit the proposal due to a technical error. Fortunately, the deadline was extended and it was eventually submitted. It would’ve been nice to have avoided that last minute stress though.

Due to all these challenges of proposal preparation, it feels like we’ve won something simply by managing to submit everything successfully. I don’t know if we’ll get the grant, but for sure this experience has enriched us all already!

Experiences like this confirm how important it is to be working with the right people and on ideas that we are all really enthused about!

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the opportunity to share our awesome project with the world!

Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo

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Contemplative Spaces: New Approaches in Design Research

GRAPHIC BY GIUSEPPINA ASCIONE

We're working towards taking care of outdoor spaces. Good to see others on the same track with indoor spaces. We can't spend all our time outdoors after all...or can we? ^_^

We also appreciate how mindfulness can be summed up in the form of a tree. Extra points!

https://www.neuroarchitectura.com/articles/2016/5/9/contemplative-spaces-towards-a-new-design-approach

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WHO calls for action to make cities greener  

For many years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has made various moves to emphasize and promote mental health as one of the major issues of the developed world. Already in 2005, it stated that Europe’s biggest problem today is the effects of mental disorders of the European population. A quarter of the population suffers from mental issues at some point in their lives, including psychoses, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

“Of the 870 million people living in the European Region, at any one time about 100 million people are estimated to suffer from anxiety and depression, 4 million from schizophrenia, 4 million from bipolar affective disorder, and 4 million from panic disorders”. While the greatest cause of the burden of disease on the European Region is cardiovascular disease, the second is neuropsychiatric disease, closely followed by depression, which is mainly caused by mental disorders (WHO, 2005).

Mental health disorders lead to many negative effects: alcohol abuse, depression and, in most tragic cases, suicides. It is sad to discover that nine of the ten countries in the world with the biggest rate of suicides are located in Europe. On the other hand, globally, in high-income countries, suicides are the second leading cause of death in the age group 15-29, just after road traffic accidents (WHO, 2014). The focus on the issues of mental health in Europe and around the world means that researchers and policy makers are ever more involved in initiatives, utilizing wide range of so called soft tools that could alleviate the scale of the problem. In a recent call for action (WHO 2017), the WHO emphasised again this need for a change in urban health initiatives with a strong focus on the creation and promotion of green spaces.

Among the multiple benefits of more green spaces in urban settings, we find improvement in air and water quality, as well as lessening of noise pollution and other environmental risks associated with urban living. In addition, they support and facilitate health and well-being by enabling stress alleviation and relaxation, physical activity, improved social interaction and community cohesiveness. Health benefits include improved levels of mental health, physical fitness and cognitive and immune function, as well as lower mortality rates in general (WHO 2017).

Calling upon expert advice, the WHO put forward precise recommendations for all stakeholders regarding creation and maintenance of green urban spaces. Firstly, contact with green spaces should be provided equally to all urban community members. As a rule of thumb, one should be able to access a public green space within 300m from their place of residence. Additionally, the quality of such spaces is not coincidental, this is why NeuroLandscape is very much involved in the public authorities’ agenda by focusing on the quality and health-promoting potential of green urban areas. And finally, WHO stresses it is important to look at this new paradigm of treating urbanisation, health and the importance of natural, green and blue spaces as a long-term project. This last aspect is also what makes NeuroLandscape’s work so exciting, as it is clear that the future not only belongs to cities, but green and healthy cities at that. We are honoured to be part of this movement and look forward to contributing to this action in years to come.

More information can be found here:

WHO web article (2016).

WHO Urban green spaces: a brief for action (2017), web press release.

WHO Urban green spaces a brief for action (2017), full report (PDF).