The Elements of Restorative Nature Experiences
Extensive scientific evidence shows that visual encounters with nature improve human health outcomes and cognitive functioning. Yet the missing link is the causal explanation, that is, why do these effects occur? This project aims to determine what it is about nature that has such tremendous effects on our brains and our health, and then create guidelines for the future design of natural spaces.
No new garden will be built. Instead, study participants are being shown images of different design elements from many of the existing Open Spaces Sacred Places. Using various image analytics, pictures of the gardens will be distilled to fundamental characteristics, such a colour and hue, visual subunits, amount of edge, and visual anchors within the scene. The impact of these design elements will then be measured using a combination of fMRI brain imaging, stress hormone indicators, and stated health.
The research team includes investigators from the University of Chicago and University of Michigan, working in partnership with professors at other U.S. universities and several non-profits. The award gives the team the opportunity to study and evaluate the positive benefits of nature in a quantitative way, and Results can help inform the future design of natural spaces in urban areas.
CITYGREEN, January 15, 2015.