Human beings evolved in “natural” environments. Many intervention studies have shown that exposure to natural environments (compared to built/urban environments) reduces stress and increases cognitive functioning. We set out to test differences in fMRI functional connectivity while showing participants photographs from natural versus built environments (matched in terms of scenicness ratings). No differences in self-reported perceived stress, rumination, valence, arousal or dominance were observed. However, functional connectivity was significantly higher when participants saw natural rather than built environmental photographs in circuits consisting of dorsal attention network (DAN) and ventral attention network (VAN), DAN and default mode network (DMN) and DMN and Somatomotor connections. In addition, we observed lower functional connectivity during the natural environment condition correlated with more years that individuals spent in major cities during upbringing. Future studies, linking changes in cognitive functioning due to nature exposure and alterations in functional connectivity, are warranted.
Fields of Science and Technology Classification 2012
- 501 Psychology
- Human behaviour