Neuroscience and Architecture: The Nobel Prize in Physiology

” ANFA is undertaking the research to show how our brains mechanically identify with our surroundings.  By understanding the neurological processes involved with how spatial information is processed, the idea is that Architects would be better equipped to design responsive, navigable, comfortable, buildings.”

Tom Albright, Director of the Academy of Neurosicence for Architecture (http://www.anfarch.org/) spoke this past weekend at the AIA conference NowNextFuture.  ANFA is undertaking the research to show how our brains mechanically identify with our surroundings.  By understanding the neurological processes involved with how spatial information is processed, the idea is that Architects would be better equipped to design responsive, navigable, comfortable, buildings.  What may currently be categorized as a building occupant’s “intuition” of space, a somewhat nebulous idea, may in the future become scientifically determinable.  Architects in the next few decades could have the tools to evaluate the legibility of a design!!!!  Of course, not everyone would interpret their surroudings in precisely the same manner, due to genetics, personal experience, behavior, mood, etc.  But, the possibility that Architects could employ factual evidence of a buildings potential success is ground-breaking and inspiring.

The Nobel Prize in Physiology was awarded to 3 individuals this year who studied the brain’s process for identifying with our physical environments.  “This year’s Nobel Laureates have discovered a positioning system, an “inner GPS” in the brain that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space, demonstrating a cellular basis for higher cognitive function.”

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

with one half to

John O’Keefe

and the other half jointly to

May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser

for their discoveries of cells that constitute a positioning
system in the brain

This type of research is core to ANFA’s founding principles, and their biennial conference this past September featured the recent Nobel research.  “Here is where the architect and designer come in: designing spaces that are straightforward for the user to navigate, by considering geometry and the location of cues and landmarks that facilitate our ability to create and retrieve the maps we need to have a practical and useful “sense of place.” The mission of ANFA, the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, is to bring together architects and neuroscientists in order to benefit the practice of designing living spaces with a better understanding of brain function and human cognitive abilities.”

The full paper from ANFA can be seen here:

http://www.anfarch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ANFA-Mission-and-2014-Nobel-Prize-in-Physiology-and-Medicine-EMacagno.pdf

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