Br J Sports Med. 2013 Mar 6
The urban brain: analysing outdoor physical activity with mobile EEG.
Aspinall P, Mavros P, Coyne R, Roe J.
School of Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK.
Researchers in environmental psychology, health studies and urban design are interested in the relationship between the environment, behaviour settings and emotions. In particular, happiness, or the presence of positive emotional mindsets, broadens an individual's thought-action repertoire with positive benefits to physical and intellectual activities, and to social and psychological resources. This occurs through play, exploration or similar activities. In addition, a body of restorative literature focuses on the potential benefits to emotional recovery from stress offered by green space and 'soft fascination'. However, access to the cortical correlates of emotional states of a person actively engaged within an environment has not been possible until recently. This study investigates the use of mobile electroencephalography (EEG) as a method to record and analyse the emotional experience of a group of walkers in three types of urban environment including a green space setting.
Using Emotiv EPOC, a low-cost mobile EEG recorder, participants took part in a 25 min walk through three different areas of Edinburgh. The areas (of approximately equal length) were labelled zone 1 (urban shopping street), zone 2 (path through green space) and zone 3 (street in a busy commercial district). The equipment provided continuous recordings from five channels, labelled excitement (short-term), frustration, engagement, long-term excitement (or arousal) and meditation.
A new form of high-dimensional correlated component logistic regression analysis showed evidence of lower frustration, engagement and arousal, and higher meditation when moving into the green space zone; and higher engagement when moving out of it.
Systematic differences in EEG recordings were found between three urban areas in line with restoration theory. This has implications for promoting urban green space as a mood-enhancing environment for walking or for other forms of physical or reflective activity.
What Does the Above All Mean?
Family Outings Can Make Your Children Smarter.
We all know that rigor and discipline are critical. If a student doesn't put in the hours, they won't achieve their full potential. But new research supports the value of certain kinds of fun time. Last week The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that was conducted at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Earlier, related research found that people who live near forested areas have lower levels of cortisol, a harmful stress hormone. People with attention deficit disorders demonstrate improved concentration after spending time around trees. But the latest research was the first to provide real-time data. Young adults were fitted with portable electroencephalograms. Then they were asked to take a walk in a park, a quiet urban neighborhood, and a busy city center. The site of grown men and women with wires coming out of their heads probably raised the stress levels of many onlookers. But the subjects walking in the park reached a peaceful mental state that psychologists call "effortless attention." A mind in this state is able to process a lot of information without fatigue. This is an optimum state of mind for studying, and that's where time in nature really pays off. The more time a child spends in "effortless attention," the easier it is to attain this state of mind at will. The implications of this research are encouraging. Whenever you take your kids camping, hiking, on a picnic or a retreat, you're teaching them how to muster effortless attention. You get to spend more quality time with your children, everyone has fun, and you're actually increasing the capacity to learn. Best of all, you don't have to glue a bunch of wires in your hair. The good folks in Edinburgh have already done that part for you.