The startling increase in neuro-science findings in recent years has given rise to specialisations: new areas of research are emerging in response to questions about how we live, and neuro-urbanism is one of them.

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The beginnings of neuro-urbanism

Neuro-urbanism is a combination of urban research and health research and was developed because of the need to understand how urban life affects our minds. This discipline investigates the finding that city dwellers suffer more from mental illnesses than people living in rural areas.

Professor Mazda Adli, psychiatrist and senior consultant at a Berlin clinic, is one of the first doctors to investigate this field. Professor Adli is also a research director and in 2015 initiated the Forum on Neuro-Urbanism  called “Stress and the City”, together with other scientists. The Forum, the only one of its kind in the world, interlinks diverse disciplines, which include urban research, psychology, medicine, architecture, and neurosciences.

Neuro-urbanism, a resource for creating tomorrow’s cities

Following numerous evidence-based scientific studies, several avenues are developing in response to the range of questions which have arisen. It is thought that social stress could be the reason behind increasing mental disorders in city dwellers. Social stress develops when a high level of social density in a city is coupled with anonymity and loneliness. The key to change lies partly in a city’s role to provide places that promote social interaction.

Yet, noise and excessive proximity are stressors which differentiate cities from rural areas. Professor Adli suggests that cities should provide both areas in which to relax and lively areas for socialising. He also insists that housing should be constructed in such a way as to protect occupants as much as possible from traffic noise.

In a nutshell, cites are a balance between stimulation and relaxation and must be adapted to their residents so that they become a space for self-fulfilment, by limiting the consequences of urbanisation on citizen well-being.

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Article updated on 07/09/22