Brains In The City: Neuroscience and Urban Design
keynote by Dr Melanie Flory
City brain; Urban brain; Neuroaesthetics; Multidisciplinary design; Urban mental health; Neuropolis; Systems thinking; Neuroscience and Urban Design
Neuroscience research has begun to uncover changes in neural function and mental wellbeing directly associated with the changing and ubiquitous realities of urban living. Today more than 50% of the world’s population live in urban settlements. The emerging physical and social landscapes that high-rise buildings, complex infrastructures, technology-dependent networks and new economic dynamics create, demand that city dwellers develop an adaptive and agile mindset to cope and thrive amidst new levels and definitions of stress.
Human biology, however, is another matter. City ecosystems necessitate rapid biological and psychological shifts to adapt to urban elements such as prolonged exposure to artificial light, incessant audio stimuli, and competitive social media. Studies utilising a comprehensive range of biomarkers show high stress-impact scores for city dwellers. Psychologically, these include higher incidence of repeated depression, psychiatric illness and addictive behaviours. Biologically, the rise of acute, chronic and autoimmune diseases is well documented and associated with urban-stress indicators of wellbeing.
This presentation is a call to students and designers, scientists and sociologists, artists and creatives and every city dweller, to reorient their thinking and efforts to developing innovative and multidisciplinary collaborations that address the quality of human life in symbiosis with ecosystems and future economies.