One of my favorite places in the world is Edinburgh. I first went there in graduate school, and spend several days at the Royal Observatory, and several nights wandering around; more recently, my wife and I spent a great weekend there when we were on sabbatical.
It's no surprise to me that the latest research investigating the restorative effects of natural environments (I've got more on restorative environments here) was conducted in Edinburgh:
Scientists have known for some time that the human brain’s ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed by the constant noise and hectic, jangling demands of city living, sometimes resulting in a condition informally known as brain fatigue…. But an innovative new study from Scotland suggests that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park.
Researchers... at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh attached... portable EEGs to the scalps of 12 healthy young adults. The electrodes, hidden unobtrusively beneath an ordinary looking fabric cap, sent brain wave readings wirelessly to a laptop carried in a backpack by each volunteer.
The researchers, who had been studying the cognitive impacts of green spaces for some time, then sent each volunteer out on a short walk of about a mile and half that wound through three different sections of Edinburgh….
What they found confirmed the idea that green spaces lessen brain fatigue.
When the volunteers made their way through the urbanized, busy areas, particularly the heavily trafficked commercial district at the end of their walk, their brain wave patterns consistently showed that they were more aroused and frustrated than when they walked through the parkland, where brain-wave readings became more meditative.
While traveling through the park, the walkers were mentally quieter.