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Overview

About The Project

Objective

Provide robust scientific evidence on how the natural and built urban environment shapes the neural system underlying human cognitive and emotional processing, with a perspective that also incorporates age, gender and vulnerable groups’ specificities. Furthermore, it has the goal to map such neurobiological reactivity through time and space as the urban landscape change. Grasping the spatial cognition of the citizens’ behaviour and decisions while interacting with their real-life surroundings will be a breakthrough, as it will foster more inclusive urban design resulting in better individual health and well-being.

Project started

Specific Objectives

Identify policy-relevant research questions and develop a “eMOTIONAL Cities conceptual framework” for linking urban environment, neuroscience and physical/mental health and well-being.

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Apply geospatial analytics, through quantitative and qualitative methodologies, to four different urban case studies, across two continents (three in Europe and one in the US), in order to determine critical urban area characteristics, as well as to map physical environments, socio-economic characteristics, mobility patterns and geo-tagged social media (Twitter and Instagram) determinants of health.

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Combine controlled laboratory experiments with field ecological research by directly capturing peoples physiological and neurobiological responses while interacting with specific urban artefacts.

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Collect and analyse both geospatial and neuroscience data paying specific attention to vulnerable groups, age and gender aspects, in order to identify barriers and facilitators of urban spaces that are truly inclusive.

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Create an open spatial data infrastructure (SDI) capable of integrating multisource heterogeneous geospatial and neuroscience datasets and time series information.

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Integrate statistical data and geospatial descriptions with contextual neuroscience information to generate evidence-based knowledge on how the natural and built environment, as well as the social fabric, affect cognitive and affective well-being.

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Provide insights and policy-related recommendations to improve the physical and mental health and well-being in cities by leveraging the project’s evidence-based knowledge with machine learning-based scenario discovery.

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Promote the education on healthy cities and urban design practices, based on interdisciplinary knowledge that combines data from social sciences with natural and medical sciences (neuropsychiatry and neuroscience).

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Raise awareness on how the built environments relate with human senses and shape emotions and health, fostering citizens to act and request for better policies that address well-being.

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Ensure project sustainability after its conclusion.

Work plan

WP1

Project management and coordination

WP1 of the eMOTIONAL Cities project and has a duration of 48 months, covering the entire project lifetime, and it contemplates 4 tasks: 1) Elaboration and maintenance of the Project Management Plan; 2) Administrative and technical management; 3) Organization of the annual meetings; and 4) Integrate with the European Urban Health Cluster.

The main role of WP1 is to ensure the efficient and timely implementation of the project activities and ensure that the overall project objectives are met. The WP1 main objectives are: Provide administrative and financial project management.

Monitor the progress of activities and the achievement of deliverables and milestones.

  • Organize and provide the reports of annual consortium meetings.
  • Build bridges of communication within the consortium and with stakeholders/end-user’s knowledge.
  • Ensure timely and adequate reporting to the European Commission.
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IGOT

WP2

Theoretical framework

Review and compile existing research and scholarship on the use of neuroscience to understand the relationships between urban environments and health : Under this objective, scoping reviews will be undertaken to understand the different theories, methods, and limitations of studies related to urban built environments and health outcomes measured through neuroscience. The result would be a harmonized assessment of the theoretical frameworks prevalent in existing literature.

Create the conceptual framework and overarching research questions: Under this objective, we would identify the common theories to ground this study and identify gaps to be addressed. The result would be a conceptual framework that would indicate the theories, methods, and expected outcomes for this study.

Articulate the final research framework used in study: It is expected that over the course of the study, the conceptual framework will be revised as necessary. Under this objective, we will clearly articulate the theoretical underpinnings and research framework that were finally adopted for this study toward the end of the project.

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MSU

WP3

Data management and infrastructure

In this work package we will design and implement an integrated infrastructure for storing and querying geospatial context information and experimental neuropsychology research data collected and generated during the project. This spatial data infrastructure (SDI) will be made accessible to each of the partners in the consortium and will provide two main services: a) data ingestion and b) data publishing. The former task regards the incorporation of different datasets into the data infrastructure, in some cases after pre-processing, while the latter regards the publication of the outcome datasets, in a way that can be easily consumed by authorized users. The SDI will be accessible to explore, visualize and understand the information assets collected in the context of this project, as well to build third party applications and services on top of it.

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BR

WP4

Spatial analysis of urban health

WP4 will provide location-referenced spatial evidence on health determinants. The key objectives in WP4 are the following:

  • Deploy a methodology for physical and mental urban health analysis, which recognizes the fabric of the city and its agents in its multiple dimensions.
  • Consider the urban physical environment, urban fabric and urban design, and its many elements that need to be properly analysed and integrated (i.e. Densities, Functional distribution, Centralities and new centralities, Green areas, Heritage).
  • Consider the urban socioeconomic environment determinants for/in urban health and well-being. Contemplating the importance of the socioeconomic and cultural contexts as the basis for a clear understanding of the characteristics of the populations.
  • Set up and analysis of a population cohort upon health indicators, ageing and gender and mapping of its associated spatial patterns/process for health and well-being, since some groups are particularly affected by wider determinants of health and will be subject to detailed analysis and policy (i.e. children, elderly, people with mobility needs).
  • Mapping of emotions triggered by the built environment, while cities’ physical and socioeconomic characteristics will trigger different emotions; expressed differently across distinct places, times, socioeconomic groups, and cultures.
  • A toolbox of spatial analysis and mapping for health and well-being, delivering key references to data, metrics, variables, and methods/methodologies.
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CAMB

WP5

Neuroscience experiments

The WP5 will provide scientific evidence about the brain representations responsible for processing the emotions and decisions elicited while humans interact with the (built and natural) urban environment. Such basic neurobiological knowledge is critical to shed light on how to better improve population health, physical and/or mental, with appropriate urban planning and design. 

To achieve its goals, WP5 will include a series of indoor and outdoor neuroscience experiments using appropriate paradigms and metrics for robust behavioural and neurophysiological evaluation. Brain responses will be measured in the laboratory through state-of-the-art functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) and high-density electroencephalogram (EEG), which will be combined with virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) technology to recreate various parameterized urban scenarios.

In the outdoor experiments, we will invite adult volunteers to perform trajectories in our case-study cities while collecting data with several wearable sensors for location (GPS), environmental exposures (air pollutants, noise, light, temperature, wind frequency), behavioural (accelerometers, eye tracking), physiological (heart/respiratory rate, electrodermal activity) and neurobiological (EEG) measures. This will be further complemented by smartphone-based mobility tracking and survey data with ecological momentary assessment.

Finally, we will also conduct an observational and exploratory clinical study in an elderly population comparing healthy volunteers and patients with mild cognitive impairment. The main goal is to understand how the configuration of the urban environment can affect a person’s accuracy at wayfinding through novel (i.e., virtually modified) urban scenarios as well as the way city design can reduce errors in performance. Our hypothesis is that spatial navigation in a vulnerable elderly population could be improved by re-designing the outdoor neighbourhood. This scientific validation will allow urban planners and municipalities to adapt their cities in order to promote more preventive and therapeutic environments.

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FMUL

WP6

Evidence-based knowledge

This work package will work on the data fusion of spatial data on health and well-being with the neuroscience findings on how urban characteristics influence cognitive and emotional processing. the first step endeavours to fuse the geo-datasets previously acquired in a consistent and synchronized format to support the creation of geographical modelling. Furthermore, it aims to develop and implement dynamic models (instead of static maps) that snapshot portraits in space and time. The dynamic models will geosimulate and deliver a spatial-explicit visualization of how agents dynamically behave in the city regarding the urban environment – including the impact of urban artefacts on people’s (physical and mental) health and their neural processing. An Agent-based simulation model will be designed, being capable to adapt to different cities’ realities and still deliver accurate results. The model will be based on a set of eMOTIONAL indicators to classify urban systems based on threedimensional georeferenced models for a spatiotemporal dynamic characterization. Finally, it will create interactive maps of cities that show which zones influence neural processing and to what extent. This mapping will provide evidence to the sets of properties of urban systems and their impact on eMOTIONS and health and maps will be embodied into the SDI.

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CLIMA

WP7

Scenario discovery

DTU

WP8

Dissemination, exploitation and communication

SPI

WP9

Ethics requirements

WP9 rolls it to set out the ‘ethics requirements’ that the project must follow.and leader main objective is to ensure compliance with them.

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IGOT