Acute effects of environmental stimuli

In several studies, we examine how the presentation of environmental stimuli – such as sounds, images, videos or smells or a combination of all – impact cognition or well-being (look at Methods for further information). We also conduct studies in which we ask our participants to take a longer walk in a certain environment and examine brain activity, as well as how they feel and how well they can concentrate before and after the walk.


  • Mostajeran, F., Krzikawski, J., Steinicke, F., & Kühn, S. (2021). Effects of exposure to immersive videos and photo slideshows of forest and urban environments. Scientific Reports11, Article 3994. 
  • Kühn, S., Garcia Forlim, C., Lender, A., Wirtz, J., & Gallinat, J. (2021). Brain functional connectivity differs when viewing pictures from natural and built environments using fMRI resting state analysis. Scientific Reports11, Article 4110. 
  • Schiebel, T., Gallinat, J., & Kühn, S. (2022). Testing the Biophilia theory: Automatic approach tendencies towards nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology79, Article 101725.

Interiors and architecture
In this line of research, we are particularly interested in the effects of different architectural elements on people’s experience and behavior. For example, we examine the influence of angular and curved shapes, ceiling heights, or room sizes on emotions and cognition as well as underlying brain functioning.

  • Tawil, N., Sztuka, I. M., Pohlmann, K., Sudimac, S., & Kühn, S. (2021). The living space: Psychological well-being and mental health in response to interiors presented in virtual reality. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health18(23), Article 12510. 


Long-term effects of outdoor living environments

The goal here is to use large cohort studies to examine the link between habitat – assessed via georeferencing methods – and brain structure and functioning. Cohorts that we are already actively using are the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II) and IMAGEN. We plan to continue soon with the Hamburg City Health Study (HCHS), the German National Cohort (NAKO) and UKBiobank.

  • Kühn, S., Düzel, S., Eibich, P., Krekel, C., Wüstemann, H., Kolbe, J., Mårtensson, J., Goebel, J., Gallinat, J., Wagner, G. G., & Lindenberger, U. (2017). In search of features that constitute an "enriched environment" in humans: Associations between geographical properties and brain structure. Scientific Reports7, Article 11920. 
  • Kühn, S., Banaschewski, T., Bokde, A. L. W., Büchel, C., Quinlan, E. B., Desrivières, S., Flor, H., Grigits, A., Garavan, H., Gowland, P., Heinz, A., Ittermann, B., Martinot, J.-L., Paillère Martinot, M. L., Nees, F., Papadopoulos Orfanos, D., Paus, T., Poustka, L., Millenet, S., Fröhner, J. H., Smolka, M. N., Walter, H., Whelan, R., Schumann, G., Meyer-Lindenberg, A., & Gallinat, J. (2020). Brain structure and habitat: Do the brains of our children tell us where they have been brought up? NeuroImage222, Article 117225. 
  • Kühn, S., Düzel, S., Mascherek, A., Eibich, P., Krekel, C., Kolbe, J., Goebel, J., Gallinat, J., Wagner, G. G., & Lindenberger, U. (2021). Urban green is more than the absence of city: Structural and functional neural basis of urbanicity and green space in the neighbourhood of older adults. Landscape and Urban Planning214, Article 104196. 

Extreme environments
In several studies we examine different groups of people before and after they are exposed to extreme environments. We use functional and structural MRI to investigate the influence of habitat on brain plasticity. The habitats we study include the Neumayer Station III of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Antarctica; astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) and the Human Exploration Research Analogue (Hera) (PI: Alexander Stahn, University of Pennsylvania, Charité University). In a new project we investigate the effects of prisons on mental health, behavior, and the brain in a naturalistic case-control study (together with Johannes Fuss, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf).

  • Stahn, A. C., Gunga, H.-C., Kohlberg, E., Gallinat, J., Dinges, D. F., & Kühn, S. (2019). Brain changes in response to long-duration Antarctic expeditions. The New England Journal of Medicine381(23), 2273–2275. 
  • Stahn, A. C., & Kühn, S. (2021). Extreme environments for understanding brain and cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Advance online publication. 
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