Architecture and Neuroscience

architecture neuroscience

Architecture is not only about aesthetics. Like the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum buildings also need to respond to the functional needs of the occupants, and users need to be provided with adequate lighting, well-modulated Boutique Air cooling systems, structural soundness, and public safety provisions. These requirements can vary according to the type of building, a hospital has other requirements than a museum.

If we could relate this knowledge to neuroscience we would then know how the design of classrooms can support the cognitive activities of students, how the design of hospital rooms can enhance the recovery of patients, and how the design of offices and laboratories can facilitate interdisciplinary activities of neuroscientists, and so forth.

In short architecture and neuroscience can have three relationships. The first, the more usual approach on this blog, is the parts of the brain involved with architecture, architecture can also influence brain development and since recent results of neuroscience research has consequences for design. As an example of the last relationship please read about Chronotherapeutics in Psychiatric Hospitals. Chronotherapeutics are controlled exposures to environmental stimuli that act on biological rhythms in order to achieve therapeutic effects in psychiatric conditions

What brain areas are involved with architecture?

Perceiving buildings is a complex process, it involves sensations such as seeing but also perception. Experiences with other prior buildings is also of importance. How do we store and recall our sensory experiences when it comes to architecture, buildings. Evaluation, decision making, emotions and affect, as well as interaction, movement all play a part in the neuroscience of architecture. Research on neuroscience and brain location are scarce. The brain region linking the brain to experiences with architecture is the parahippocampal place area. The parahippocampal place area (PPA) is a subregion of the parahippocampal cortex that plays an important role in the encoding and recognition of scenes (rather than faces or objects). As published in an article in Neuron linking PPA to experiences with architecture

They found that PPA activity (1) is not affected by the subjects’ familiarity with the place depicted, (2) does not increase when
subjects experience a sense of motion through the scene, and (3) is greater when viewing novel versus repeated scenes. The authors had earlier reported that the PPA was significantly more active when subjects viewed complex scenes such as rooms with furniture, landscapes, and city streets than when they viewed photographs of objects, faces, house (elevations), or other kinds of visual stimuli.

parahippocampal place area

Linking neuroscience with architectural design is hardly researched. In Neuron, John P. Eberhard wrote an excellent essay in order to motivate neuroscientists all over the world to explore this link. He is the Founding President of The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) that was created in 2003 to explore ways to link the research of neuroscience to the practice of architecture. He got me enthusiastic although I will be of little help to his just cause.
Eberhard, J. (2009). Applying Neuroscience to Architecture Neuron, 62 (6), 753-756 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.06.001