A small study was conducted in Korea with 18 young adults consisting of nine women and nine men. The research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2017 revealed some rather extraordinary findings about what happened when study participants viewed twelve photographic images each taken in winter of cityscapes or garden landscapes. Changes in brain activity in the prefrontal cortex were inferred using near-infrared spectroscopy during image viewing to monitor shifts in regional oxygenated hemoglobin (oxy-Hb) levels. Blood pressure and heart rate as well mood states and anxiety levels were assessed following the viewing of images. Overall, viewing pictures of cityscapes led to increased oxy-Hb, while garden landscapes decreased prefrontal cortex oxy-Hb levels. For men, viewing cityscape images increased oxy-Hb in the left and right prefrontal cortex while garden landscape images decreased oxy-Hb in both the left and right prefrontal cortex. Women viewing cityscape or garden landscape images resulted in decreased oxy-Hb in both the left and right prefrontal cortex with the reduction in the left prefrontal cortex much more robust than observed for men. Diastolic blood pressure was lower following viewing garden landscapes compared to cityscape images for men, while the opposite was true for women. Indicators of mood state disturbance and anxiety appeared to be lower after viewing garden landscapes compared to cityscapes for the total population. These fascinating findings justify a much larger study to test and confirm the magnitude of the changes in brain activation, cardiac physiology and mental health status when a person views images of cityscapes in contrast to garden landscapes.
Charlie Guy, Professor, UF Department of Environmental Horticulture