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Convergence: Architecture Meets Neuroscience

Have you thought about the way a hospital’s design might help or hinder recovery?  Have you noticed that some building spaces are better than others for concentration and productivity?

These questions seek to define how the physical design of an environment can impact cognitive, emotional, motor, biochemical, and physiological processes.  Interest in questions like these is gaining momentum.  This was the chief reason for the formation of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA), which recently held its first national conference at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

ANFA was formed in 2003 with the goal of creating architecture that betters human lives using findings from neuroscience.  Instead of creating buildings solely for utility, they aim to enrich the built environment, which in turn can enrich the brain.  They have formed a program of Research Associates, which sends professionals with either neuroscience or architecture backgrounds to work in laboratories or firms of the other field.  So far, this collaboration has led to some effective publications and avenues for further work.

Some of the current research supported by this organization focuses on the design of healthcare and education facilities; a major objective is to foster learning and improve the neural functioning of patients.  Other research examines the design of correctional facilities in an effort to improve safety and mitigate stress levels of correctional facility staff.  In the laboratory, EEG is being used in conjunction with virtual reality to measure human brain responses to various environments (Zhang et al., 2010).  Indeed, electrophysiology results have contributed to findings in spatial processing as well (Monosov et al., 2008).

What do you think?

What other fields do you think would benefit from a convergence with neuroscience?

Could your own bench work possibly contribute to architecture in some way?

Could architecture be influencing your own studies?

What is the optimum layout of laboratory facilities?

Many new facilities and renovations make use of communal-style laboratory arrangements, with shared space and open areas.  Are these trends conducive to conducting research?

Further Reading:

Badger E. (2012). Corridors of the Mind. Pacific Standard. November 5, 2012.

Monosov IE, Trageser JC, Thompson KG.  (2008). Measurements of simultaneously recorded spiking activity and local field potentials suggest that spatial selection emerges in the frontal eye field. Neuron.  Feb 28;57(4):614-25.

Zhang L, Chi YM, Edelstein E, Schulze J, Gramann K, Velasquez A, Cauwenberghs G, Macagno E. (2010).  Wireless physiological monitoring and ocular tracking: 3D calibration in a fully-immersive virtual health care environment.  Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. ;2010:4464-7.


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