Inducing physiological stress recovery with sounds of nature in a virtual reality forest--results from a pilot study

Physiol Behav. 2013 Jun 13:118:240-50. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.05.023. Epub 2013 May 18.


Experimental research on stress recovery in natural environments is limited, as is study of the effect of sounds of nature. After inducing stress by means of a virtual stress test, we explored physiological recovery in two different virtual natural environments (with and without exposure to sounds of nature) and in one control condition. Cardiovascular data and saliva cortisol were collected. Repeated ANOVA measurements indicated parasympathetic activation in the group subjected to sounds of nature in a virtual natural environment, suggesting enhanced stress recovery may occur in such surroundings. The group that recovered in virtual nature without sound and the control group displayed no particular autonomic activation or deactivation. The results demonstrate a potential mechanistic link between nature, the sounds of nature, and stress recovery, and suggest the potential importance of virtual reality as a tool in this research field.

Keywords: Cortisol; Green environment; Heart rate variability; Soundscape; TSST.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Birds
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nature*
  • Photic Stimulation*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Water
  • Young Adult


  • Water
  • Hydrocortisone