Are Neuroscientists the New Architects? Neurological Basis for Architectural Design


Thomas AlbrightThomas Albright is a Professor and the Director of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the President of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. He obtained a B.S. in Psychology at the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University where he also completed his Postdoctoral Fellowship. His research focuses on the neuronal structures and events that underlie the perception of motion, color, and form.


To maximize gain during the lecture, reading about the basic functions of various parts of the brain that correlate with perception are recommended. Transduction would be observed from the environmental stimulus of colors and movement to biological activation.  For his latest research, Albright observed the effects of flashing chromatic colors to activate the primary cortex to determine differences from simple color activation.

“Light reflected from objects in the environment projects onto the retinal surface, resulting in intricate and dynamic patterns of brightness and color. Human observers interpret these images, nearly instantaneously and generally without awareness, to yield unequivocal and behaviorally informative percepts. Our goal has been to understand the neuronal structures and events that underlie visual perceptual experience and its contributions to knowledge, behavior and consciousness.”

Tom Albright, Ph.D. | President
Professor and Director, Vision Center Laboratory
Salk Institute for Biological Studies
La Jolla, CA

Architectural design and environments are capable of eliciting an array of emotions, thus the physical, social, and aesthetic qualities of our surroundings can have a deep effect on people.  For example, in a small town of Weesp, in Holland, there exists a dementia-focused living center called De Hogeweyk, or Dementia Village. It is a recently constructed environment that is comforting and familiar for people with dementia. By utilizing recognizable furniture and simple floor-plans, it mitigates anxiety and discomfort in the patients and solves common problems associated with the illness. For example, a common symptom is the urge to roam, often without warning, but Hogeweyk rectifies this problem because the interior of the security perimeter is its own little village, which means that patients can move about as they wish without being in danger. Additionally, the architectural blueprint compensates for problems with aging by addressing the physical, sensory, and cognitive changes associated with becoming older.

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 9.44.59 PM Dementiavillage

Architectural layout of De Hogeweyk

The Transduction team would investigate a variety of buildings to determine the specific aspects of building design that would conjure a particular feeling. For instance, casinos exhibit flashy lights to invigorate gamblers, or hospitals possess a cathartic ambience to induce a therapeutic effect on patients. Coupled with architecture speakers, this would provide greater insight to why those layouts were constructed in ways that they are. It would elucidate the signals that are transduced from architecture and physical surroundsings, to human psychological and biological perspectives, ultimately leading to transduction into social behavior.

More Information

Image Sources

Proposed by William Park.