How do we quantify the person, the environment, and their interaction?

We use ecological measures to understand the external environment.

We use functional neuroimaging to understand the internal environment.

The Environmental Neuroscience Lab at the University of Chicago

is interested in how the physical environment affects the brain and behavior. Previous findings from the ENL show that brief interactions with natural environments (such as walks in a park) can improve memory and attention by 20%. Studies in our lab have examined how interacting with natural environments promotes these improvements, investigating brain networks that underlie the relationship between environment and behavior. We hope to further understand which features of the natural environment lead to improvements in memory and attention as well as identify other manipulations that increase brain efficiency. Our current research examines how physical and social characteristics of urban spaces –including social cohesion, physical disorder, heat, and greenspace– (1) affect interactions between individuals in different neighborhoods and (2) relate to crime. In pursuit of this question, we are using deep learning approaches to analyze large set of social networking, image, and video data from sources including Twitter, Reddit, Yelp, Google Street View, and Sage. With a better understanding and quantification of the relationships between the brain, behavior, and the environment, we hope our research will influence the design of physical spaces in ways that will optimize human mental health, physical health, and overall well-being.


Bloomberg CityLab: “It Turns Out Big City Life Isn’t Making You Depressed”

Bloomberg CityLab: “It Turns Out Big City Life Isn’t Making You Depressed”

A new study suggests that towns and suburbs could learn from bigger cities about how to increase social interaction.
The study, to be published Aug. 3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, draws on mathematical models and multiple datasets to try to gauge how city size and the “built environment,’’ like structures and roads, influence depression…