Exploring the relationship between landscape features and brain activation using vision AI

ISHS Secretariat
Exploring the relationship between landscape features and brain activation using vision AI

Exposure to nature has been proven not only to restore our attention and increase positive emotion but also to lower stress and anxiety levels, bringing multiple health effects. Neurological research has found that a 90-minute walk in nature lowers the activation of emotion regulation areas in the brain, which is associated with a lower risk of mental illness. While the positive health benefits of human interaction with nature have been described, our knowledge is limited on the key feature or elements in nature that are critical to our health. Although these features may be subtle and difficult to identify, new technologies can improve our understanding in this area. Computer learning can now identify features from big datasets and researchers have tried to connect them with neurological responses. Our study pursued three specific goals: to identify landscape features in various environments, to investigate the emotional health effects of neurological responses, and to explore correlations between the two. First, we reanalyzed the data from a previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiment that dynamically captured the brain responses of 35 participants as they viewed different landscape photographs. A pre-trained machine learning algorithm was applied to identify the physical environmental features in each photograph. Lastly, we set the coordination in the brain area related to emotion, the amygdala, to investigate the relationship between activation of this brain area and physical features in the photographed environments. This research explores the possibility of connecting landscape features and emotional response. The results provide us with more opportunities to explore key factors and planting principles that may impact our brain and mental health. It also gives us an insight into the key elements of nature that help landscape designers to establish healthful landscape criteria.

Yu Hsin Tung was the second winner of the ISHS Young Minds Award for the best oral presentation at the XV International People Plant Symposium and II International Symposium on Horticultural Therapies: The Role of Horticulture in Human Well-being and Social Development, which was held virtually in USA in October 2021.

Yu Hsin Tung, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, National Taiwan University, 10673 Taipei City, Taiwan, e-mail: f06628303@g.ntu.edu.tw

The article is available in Chronica Horticulturae

landscape features
brain activation
artificial intelligence
Young Minds Award Winners