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Research Projects - Research Group Neurourbanism


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Urban Health and Stress

Urbanisation is one of the most serious challenges of our time. For the year 2050, the UN forecasts an increase in the urban population to 66.4 % worldwide. In Germany, this increase is even expected to rise to 83 %.
This is not surprising, since life in the city offers many advantages, such as better access to education, culture, work and health care. At the same time, however, urban life and increasing urbanization lead to increased confrontation with various stressors, such as crowding, social isolation, air and noise pollution, as well as social hotspots associated with poverty and increased crime. All this shapes the social but also the health-promoting environment of city dwellers who, depending on their housing situation or socio-economic factors, have varying levels of access to recreational facilities, such as parks or green spaces in general.
In cooperation with the Umweltbundesamt (, the current project will investigate the relationship between city life, individual stress vulnerability and psychological well-being. For this purpose, fMRI data of an established stress task as well as questionnaire data on stress and mental well-being will be analysed together with potential residential moderators, such as green spaces, air pollution and noise.
The aim of the project is to analyse the influence of potential residence-specific protection and risk factors on individual stress vulnerability and psychological well-being.

Charter of Neurourbanism

In order to meet the challenges of the global urbanisation for the quality of life and mental health of the urban population, this project develops recommendations for urban politicians and all those who shape public life in the city. These neurourbanistic recommendations, resulting from an interdisciplinary debate, are summarized in the Charter of Neurourbanism, which is structured around nine keywords. The respective statements cover those areas of urban life in which (neuro-) psychological as well as urban planning and urban sociological research meet in a special way. The aim here is to identify factors that protect urban society from mental illness and shape the city as a resilient place. With the Charter we would like to contribute to this aim.

The project Charter of Neurourbanism is partly financed by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe within the framework of the European Cultural Heritage Year 2018.

Restorative Boulevards – Urban design elements to promote mental wellbeing in inner-city arterial streets

Neurourbanism is an emerging research field
where we collaborate as urban planners with neuroscientists
from Charité – Universitätsmedizin
Berlin to investigate how the social and built environment
influences mental health and wellbeing.
While a growing body of literature relates urban
green spaces to mental health and wellbeing, only
a few studies draw attention to urban "grey" spaces
such as streets, pedestrianized areas and squares.
We argue that there is a need to investigate how
urban grey spaces can actively promote mental
health and wellbeing in the face of dynamic urbanisation
and that there is an opportunity to re-develop
restorative Boulevards as the population in
many European urban agglomerations shift towards
more green travel modes. Besides reducing
motorized traffic and injecting more urban greenery,
we hypothesis that there is an untapped potential
for restorative effects in improving street
network connectivity, diverse land use, building
density, pedestrian visibility, visual complexity and
ground floor programming. In 5 user evaluation
studies, we will couple spatial analysis of large arterial
streets with psychophysiological data.