We utilize imaging methods to measure human brain structure but also brain functioning in reaction to its environment. We often use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), but also near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and electorencephalography (EEG). The latter methods are of particular interest because they also allow mobile assessment in the field.
"Georeferencing" means that one can relate characteristics to certain places, for instance, people’s home address and the features of the surrounding environment. All sorts of maps or satellite images are used to do this. These methods, also represented in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), allow us to characterize residential settings more objectively, for example, with regard to questions about the amount of vegetation within a certain radius, about the average air pollution, or how long it takes to get to the next grocery shop.
Virtual reality (VR) makes it possible for people to place themselves into completely different environments. As this technology generates strong feelings of presence and so-called immersion effects, that is, the sense of actually being at the simulated place, it has great value for environmental psychology research. Furthermore, people in the VR can not only experience it passively, they can also interact with it actively. We use VR in order to be able to vary aspects of the environment systematically. This is of interest to us because we can compare the influence of natural landscapes and built-up areas, and also investigate the effects of interiors and architectural aspects of the structural environment.
We use the myPhotoApp to obtain pseudonymized and thus anonymous photos from participants. The intention is that participants can use their smart phone to take photographs of their own residential setting without revealing personal details. The photos allow us to quantify certain aspects of the environment they live in.