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Study Shows Your Brain on Architecture

Friday, November 14, 2014

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Contemplative architecture in one's environment may provide the same health benefits as internally generated meditation.

That is the conclusion of a new study on brain behavior and architecture, according to a detailed report in The Atlantic and the study abstract.

The research team’s lead author, Dr. Julio Bermudez, told The Atlantic that churches, mosques, art galleries, monuments, museums, and other buildings designed with contemplation in mind have a measurable, positive affect on the human brain.

© iStock.com / dredK

The study found that brain activity while viewing images of contemplative spaces was similar to that seen during internally generated meditation sessions, according to the abstract.

Bermudez suggested these buildings are doing exactly what they were designed to do, noting that “architectural design matters,” the report said.

A full copy of the study was not immediately available for review Thursday (Nov. 13).

12 Architects Tested

The study involved showing photos of contemplative and non-contemplative buildings (schools, offices, and houses) to 12 test subjects and recording the effects on the brain using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). The imaging measures brain activity by detecting associated changes in blood flow.

The subjects “imagined they were transported to the places being shown,” from its facade to the interior, the report stated.

All 12 subjects were architects, Caucasian, and right-handed with no meditative training, “creating the necessary (if comical) uniformity needed for the research,” the report said.

© iStock.com / andrewmasters

Test subjects viewed photographs of contemplative architecture, such as the Pantheon in Rome.

Images used in the study included the Pantheon in Rome; the Chartres Cathedral in France; and La Alhambra in Spain.

Peaceful Results

Ultimately, the study found that brain activity while viewing the contemplative spaces was similar to that seen during internally-generated meditation sessions, according to the study abstract.

In addition, follow-up interviews with the architects suggested that they had experienced “peacefulness and relaxation, lessening of mind wandering, increasing of attention and deepening of experience” after viewing the contemplative photos, The Atlantic reported.

Study Goal

The goal of the study was to “reveal something interesting that warrants additional funding,” Bermudez told the magazine.

Bermudez says studies on the built environment struggle for funding because “it’s difficult to suggest people are dying from it.”

Bermudez presented his work to attendees at the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture conference held Sept. 18-20 in La Jolla, CA.

Videos and abstracts from the conference are available here.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Design; Research; Trends

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