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Open AccessArticle

Autonomic Nervous System Responses to Viewing Green and Built Settings: Differentiating Between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Activity

1
Department of Public and Occupational Health, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Vrije Universiteit (VU) University Medical Center, van der Boechorststraat 7, NL 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2
Department of Psychology and Pedagogy, Vrije Universiteit (VU), Transitorium Van der Boechorststraat 1, NL 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
3
Department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit (VU), Transitorium Van der Boechorststraat 1, NL 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
4
Department of Cultural Geography, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, Landleven 1, 9747 AD Groningen, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(12), 15860-15874; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph121215026
Received: 29 September 2015 / Revised: 7 December 2015 / Accepted: 9 December 2015 / Published: 14 December 2015
This laboratory study explored buffering and recovery effects of viewing urban green and built spaces on autonomic nervous system activity. Forty-six students viewed photos of green and built spaces immediately following, and preceding acute stress induction. Simultaneously recorded electrocardiogram and impedance cardiogram signal was used to derive respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and pre-ejection period (PEP), indicators of respectively parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. The findings provide support for greater recovery after viewing green scenes, as marked by a stronger increase in RSA as a marker of parasympathetic activity. There were no indications for greater recovery after viewing green scenes in PEP as a marker of sympathetic activity, and there were also no indications of greater buffering effects of green space in neither RSA nor PEP. Overall, our findings are consistent with a predominant role of the parasympathetic nervous system in restorative effects of viewing green space. View Full-Text
Keywords: stress buffering; stress recovery; natural environment; autonomic nervous system; respiratory sinus arrhythmia; pre-ejection period stress buffering; stress recovery; natural environment; autonomic nervous system; respiratory sinus arrhythmia; pre-ejection period
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Van den Berg, M.M.; Maas, J.; Muller, R.; Braun, A.; Kaandorp, W.; Van Lien, R.; Van Poppel, M.N.; Van Mechelen, W.; Van den Berg, A.E. Autonomic Nervous System Responses to Viewing Green and Built Settings: Differentiating Between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Activity. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12, 15860-15874.

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