Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to analyze the benefit of horticultural activities

P.H. Lai, A.Y. Lee, C.Y. Chang
This study aimed to explore the psycho-emotional responses of university students after participating in horticultural activities. We approached this objective using the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology as a physiological measurement tool and using the profile of mood state (POMS) as a psychological measurement tool. In recent years, neuroscience research has rapidly grown, and it is now possible to understand emotional processing in the brain through neuroimaging. For this reason, fMRI technology has been widely implemented in the fields of physiology and psychology. Measuring brain reaction is an objective method for assessing the impact of the activities on the subjects' physiological responses. In this study, the subjects underwent fMRI a week before participating in horticultural activities and participated in a scheduled five-week planting program. After the program, the subjects' brains were scanned again. We compared and analyzed the fMRI images before and after the horticultural activities. The results showed that after participating in the horticultural activities, the functional connectivity to the brain regions of the emotional prosody network, emotional perception, mindfulness meditation, and creative thinking of the subjects were all increased. The brain areas related to the functions of creativity and mindfulness were also reinforced after horticultural activities. Our fMRI findings support the benefits of participating in outdoor horticultural activities. Furthermore, this study would provide a new approach to studying the benefits of horticultural therapy. Future studies will be required to elucidate detailed functional mechanisms in the brain, which would propose new values for horticulture therapy research.
Lai, P.H., Lee, A.Y. and Chang, C.Y. (2021). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to analyze the benefit of horticultural activities. Acta Hortic. 1330, 161-168
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1330.18
gardening, horticultural therapy, psychophysiological response, neurology, profile of mood state

Acta Horticulturae