Restaging aesthetic experiences: the potential of neuroscience and VR for the analysis of historic architectural spaces

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingConference Proceedingpeer-review


As recent research in neuroscience shows, environments affect humans to a greater extent than previously imagined. The quality of the environment does not only temporarily affect people’s moods, but experiments also suggest that the quality of the environment influences social behaviour long-term as well as the development of the brain. Cognitive neuroscience, supported by brain-imaging techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG), has enabled scholars to monitor brain signals and cognitive responses to environmental stimuli. While much of this research is in its infancy, technological advances, including the development of new mobile biosensors, continuously increase the use of neuroscience methods in architectural contexts. In combination with virtual reality (VR) technology that has recently become more successful in creating an immersive sense of presence, there is enormous potential for historical research, whether it concerns buildings that still exist, have been altered, or have vanished.
This paper will present an overview of an ongoing research project entitled ‘Spaces for Creativity’ that is situated at the intersection of architecture, computer science, environmental psychology, and design philosophy. The project focuses on a very particular aspect of human responses, namely the study participants’ performance of creativity, and it is anticipated that its results will be of importance to researchers interested in the evaluation of the aesthetic quality of architectural spaces. Cross-disciplinary in its approach, the research project involves quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate the suitability of recent biosensor technology to measure human responses to both built and virtual environments. Beyond its current focus, the project involves methods and technology, as well as a broader theoretical engagement with the concept of ‘aesthetic experience’, that are transferable to a wider context. The paper will provide an overview of potential applications of the technology and methods and show how they could complement qualitative analyses of historic architectural spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the SAH 76th Annual International Conference, Montréal, Canada, April 12–16, 2023
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jan 2023
EventSAH 76th Annual International Conference - Montréal, Canada
Duration: 12 Apr 202316 Apr 2023


ConferenceSAH 76th Annual International Conference
Abbreviated titleSAH 2023
Internet address


  • Neuroscience for architecture
  • history of architecture
  • brain-imaging
  • EEG
  • Neuroarchitecture


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