The designed environment and how it affects brain morphology and mental health

Golembiewski, Jan A. (2016) The designed environment and how it affects brain morphology and mental health. Health Environments Research and Design Journal, 9(2), pp. 161-171.

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The environment is inextricably related to mental health. Recent research replicates findings of a significant, linear correlation between a childhood exposure to the urban environment and psychosis. Related studies also correlate the urban environment and aberrant brain morphologies. These findings challenge common beliefs that the mind and brain remain neutral in the face of worldly experience.


There is a signature within these neurological findings that suggests that specific features of design cause and trigger mental illness. The objective in this article is to work backward from the molecular dynamics to identify features of the designed environment that may either trigger mental illness or protect against it.


This review analyzes the discrete functions putatively assigned to the affected brain areas and a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is the primary target of most antipsychotic medications. The intention is to establish what the correlations mean in functional terms, and more specifically, how this relates to the phenomenology of urban experience. In doing so, environmental mental illness risk factors are identified.


Having established these relationships, the review makes practical recommendations for those in public health who wish to use the environment itself as a tool to improve the mental health of a community through design.

Impact and interest:

1 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 91508
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Architecture, Healthcare, Facilities Design, Evidence-Based Design, Interior Design, Neuroscience, Endocrinology, Medicine, Guidelines
DOI: 10.1177/1937586715609562
ISSN: 2167-5112
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 The Author
Deposited On: 04 Jan 2016 00:38
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2016 11:57

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