Green spaces in cities directly affect the well-being of residents in their daily lives. The result is an interdisciplinary research team led by prof. Dr. Honey. Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg and prof. Dr. Honey. Dr. Heike Tost from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy at the Central Institute of Mental Health (ZI) in Mannheim.
Scientists have been able to prove that urban greenery such as trees, lawns, flower beds or parks is a protective factor that is important to the psyche. The results of the study were published in July in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Young volunteers rate their mood
"We were able to confirm the positive impact of green spaces in cities on well-being for the first time in everyday city life and relate to brain function," Tost said. Surprisingly, it was used by these people who spend most of their time in neighborhoods with little green space and have a reduced ability of the brain to regulate negative emotions.
For research, 33 healthy city residents between the ages of 18 and 28 were asked to rate their moods about nine times a week using specially equipped smartphones over the course of a week. During this time, the participants, as usual, started their daily routine. The so-called GPS electronic journals recorded the tracks covered by the subjects and characteristics of the routes, especially the visible green areas. This information was related to the mood recorded. In situations where they were surrounded by a higher proportion of green spaces in the city, participants indicated higher levels of well-being. Data from scientists prove that a positive effect occurs when you see the green surface from a distance of about 100 m.
Decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex
In a second step, 52 other young adults were asked to rate their mood in daily life in the same way. In addition, after a seven-day evaluation phase, participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). The method allows the representation of certain brain functions.
The results of the first round were confirmed by the second group. In fMRI, researchers have observed decreased activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in humans who responded very positively to green spaces in their daily lives. This brain region has a central control function in processing negative emotions and stressful experiences in the environment. "These results suggest that green spaces are especially important for people whose ability to regulate negative emotions is self-regulated," said Meyer-Lindenberg, ZI's executive director and medical director of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy.
According to scientists, the results of the study are extremely interesting for health-promoting urban planning. Mannheim researchers around Prof. Dr. That's why Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg is already working on a new study. It explores the effect of urban greenery with virtual reality aids. Already with regard to virtual desires, a positive effect could be found in the respondents. To do this, scientists have measured stress on skin conductance and heart rate. With this information, you can respond to urban planning in the future by planting trees or planting green areas where they are needed, said Meyer-Lindenberg. ZI also takes a closer look at tall buildings that have already been renovated. "We are exploring how green houses affect the psyche of people.
Together with the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation Technologies (HeiGIT) under the guidance of prof. Dr. Honey. Alexander Zipf, meanwhile, developed the Central Institute of Mental Health as a new guidance service. The smartphone program takes the user to their desired destination, taking care of the green spaces. Among others, remote sensing data and tree cadastre are included. cm / ZI / KIT