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Urban green spaces fight brain fatigue, reduce crime

April 4, 2013

Here are two related articles concerning the value of plants / vegetation / green spaces in urban environments. The first article, Green Spaces Fight Brain Fatigue, discusses how attention and frustration levels of pedestrians rise when in hardscape – dominated settings, while brain activity when walking in natural, green space is more meditative.

The second article, Urban planners may cry “bring us a shrubbery” to deter crime, talks about studies conducted to analyze the correlation between green spaces and crime rates.

Read portions of the two articles below and follow links for full articles.

Green spaces fight brain fatigue


The solution to “brain fatigue” could be – quite literally – a walk in the park, according to new research carried out in the Capital.

Scientists have discovered our dear green spaces chill us out more than we actually realize . . after using newly developed technology to map peoples’ brainwaves.

The study, which was only made possible by the invention of a new portable machine, was carried out by scientists at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. As part of the study 12 volunteers from the student body were sent for a walk encompassing different parts of the city. However, unbeknownst to the people around them, they had been fitted with portable EEGs wired to their scalps (pictured), hidden under hats, and connected to a laptop in their backpacks. An EEG is a machine that records electrical activity in the scalp.

Each volunteer in the study was told to go at their own pace during the one-and-a half mile walk, while the laptop in their back-pack collected data on their emotional responses to three different areas of the city.

The walkers traveled first through an older, historic district with light traffic, then through a half mile of green space, then through a more urban district with heavy traffic.

When the results read from their brains were analyzed, they showed attention and frustration levels rising in the two man-made settings, while brain activity during their time in the natural, green space was more meditative.

“Going for a walk in a green space or just sitting, or even viewing green spaces from your office window is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.”

Read full article at

And here is a portion of the second article, below, from, discussing the correlation between presence of trees and shrubs in cities correlating with low crime rates…

Urban planners may cry “bring us a shrubbery” to deter crime


One school of thought has it that inner-city trees and shrubs make convenient hiding places and covered escape routes for criminals. Another, supported by an increasing body of evidence, argues that urban foliage may actually reduce crime. Where previous studies have tended to focus on individual housing blocks or, at best, neighborhoods, new research out of Temple University is among the first to examine the issue at the city-scale. TU researchers analyzed the relationship between vegetation concentration and crime for the whole of Philadelphia.

The researchers broke the city down into 363 “tracts” identified from socioeconomic census data, each containing between 100 and 8,000 people. The data, taken from the years 2005 to 2009, was also used to assess poverty and education levels in these tracts. Vegetation coverage was assessed from satellite imagery from 2005, courtesy of NASA’s Landsat 7. Recorded incidents of aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, and theft were drawn from the University of Pennsylvania’s Neighborhood Information System CrimeBase, also for the year 2005.

The team undertook a series of statistical analyses of the data, including multivariate ordinary least squares regression. This allowed them to test the “explanatory power” of foliage on crime while controlling for other influences on it, like population density, poverty, and education. Other techniques allowed for the control of the spatial contagion of crime.

Read full article from

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2013 10:08:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing these! I’m reading the one about deterring crime right now!

    • April 4, 2013 10:08:13 pm

      It’s interesting research. In many ways it comes as no surprise, but good to see it being researched and considered by city / urban planners. I thought the two articles complimented each other nicely. Thanks for reading!

  2. April 8, 2013 10:08:23 pm

    It’s just a bit sad that we have to have “scientific studies” before we can just do what nature has been doing for years! Love the articles and cheers for sharing Spencer 🙂

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