ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT

What sport does to the body, does enrichment to your brain. As Enrichers, we base our innovations on Environmental Enrichment (EE). EE is the neurological definition for stimulating the brain through five information systems we evolved to have to perceive our surroundings. Science proved our physical surrounding influences the way our brains develop. With environmental enrichment, we give our brains a better condition, resulting into more neuropaths and higher resilience. Research shows an enriched environment make rodents get 1.5 times older, recover quicker from diseases and they are less likely to get sick. With enrichment, we can assure the physical products are spaces are performing according to what our bodies and brains need for being able to develop fully and remain in a healthy condition.

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STUDY TRIP UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE

In 2015, we did a project for Schiphol Real Estate. Our assignment was to design an office space providing maximum well-being and happiness. Professor neurobiology Jenny Morton from University of Cambridge. Jenny taught us which environmental stimuli are important to translate into the work environment. Together with her, we developed a test setup to understand what type of designs suit what type of working activity.

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DEPRIVED VS ENRICHED

In an enriched cage, rodents develop more neuropaths, because they need to process different types of information. Therefore the brain needs to activate several brain areas. When one of these areas starts to malfunction, for example when one gets sick, the other brain areas can take over the activity of the brain area fighting the disease because in an enriched environment, the brain already developed more neuropaths. 

When you take a look at the drawing of the nerve cells of mice in an enriched cage, you see there are more neuropaths and more active brain areas. But what types of stimulation does the physical environment need to provide for being enriching?

THE 5 INFORMATION PATHS

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1. VISUAL

Visual stimuli is the ability to orient yourself easily; the ability to create a good mind map. Another visual element is 'non inclusive motion': seeing movements which are repetitive, ever changing and yet predictable. It is the things we naturally like to watch. Examples are camp fires, waves hitting the shore, light reflected by water in the ceiling, leaves of trees moving in the wind, watching people on the streets. This type of stimuli is abundant in nature and outdoors, but not present in an interior. It is a type of stimulation a person needs to perceive and nowadays people spend more than 90% of their time indoors.

Example of design object providing non-inclusive motion: Holons by Jetske Visser & Michiel Martens

2. MOTOR

Motor is all information perceived by muscles. This can be either when you are active with your muscles, when you are balancing or or when your muscles are perceiving you are carrying weight.

Our Buoy chair allows you to keep your full body active while sitting

3. COGNITION

Cognition entails everything related to challenge, learning new skills and decision making. Good examples are 'language', playing a music instrument and balancing. If there is lack of challenge from a task a person performs in the space, we can add cognition as a spatial stimuli.

Our Bambata water sofa is an example of providing physical cognitive stimuli. When a second person takes a seat, the water makes you move upwards, making you need to balance and breaking the ice for starting conversations.

 
 

 

 

4. SOMATOSENSORY

Somatosensory is everything you can experience with your skin. You sense temperature, humidity, textures, pressure, airflow and with your nose and tong you sense your environment chemically. Enrichment can be provided when you vary with materials and tactility.

The Elephunk table from Alissa + Nienke is a table upholstered with recycled leather. The cuts in the leather provide a texture inviting to be stroked.

5. CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS

Every person has three types of circadian rhythms: light, nutrition and social interaction. When you want to provide an enriched environment, the artificial lighting of a space should have the same warmth as the natural light outside at the time that light is present. This means at dusk and dawn the work space should have a warm color and in the morning and middle of the day a cold color.

Nutrition is also important for having a good rhythm during the day. When you consume caffeine after 11:00 o'clock, it will have influence on the melatonin system, disturbing your ability to fall asleep.

Social interaction is also based on our biological clocks. Everyone has a biological clock between 23 and 25 hours a day. If your biological clock is less than 24 hours, you perceive the day to be shorter than it actually is. This makes you want to sleep every day a bit earlier making you a morning person. If your biological clock is longer than 24 hours, you want to stay up longer and wake up later every day, making you an evening person. This also influences the extend you are open for social interaction at certain times of the day or not.

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The Blue Sky Lamp from designer Chris Kabel emits light in a similar way the sky breaks sunlight into blue to orange colors.