News Brief

Tired Brain? Head for the Trees

Using a mobile EEG, scientists have “discovered” that green spaces are calming.

We all know that views of and walks in natural settings can reduce stress. Quantifying these benefits isn't so easy.

Photo: Paula Melton
We may be getting closer to quantifying the psychological effects of nature.

Although the green building community likes to promote the health and productivity benefits of exposure to natural daylight, views of nature, and even pastoral landscape paintings, gathering data on those benefits can be difficult—a major barrier to adoption of certain sustainable design practices in an industry driven by dollars and cents. But new technology and methodology—use of a mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) to study emotional responses to the built environment—could improve our ability to gather much-needed data, according to New York Times wellness reporter Gretchen Reynolds.

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh tested the mobile EEGs on 12 subjects, who walked through a shopping district, a park, and a busy commercial district. Although preliminary, the results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, were marked: participants showed “lower frustration, engagement and arousal, and higher meditation” while walking in the park.

Lead researcher Jenny Roe, Ph.D., told the New York Times that taking a break from work to walk in a green space “is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.”

Published April 26, 2013

Melton, P. (2013, April 26). Tired Brain? Head for the Trees. Retrieved from

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