Environmental neuroscience

Am Psychol. 2019 Dec;74(9):1039-1052. doi: 10.1037/amp0000583.


Environmental neuroscience is an emerging field devoted to the scientific study of brain-mediated, bidirectional relationships between organisms and their social and physical environments. A key feature of environmental neuroscience is the rigorous quantification of environmental features that affect the brain and subsequent behavior. In addition, environmental neuroscience considers factors that vary across multiple temporal and spatial scales that interact to produce behavior (e.g., synapses, neural circuits, cognition, local social interactions, citywide social interactions, citywide physical structures). Environmental neuroscientists then measure the spatial and temporal dynamics of the interactions between different levels of analysis. For example, we demonstrate through hierarchical systems theory and mathematical modeling how interacting with urban greenspace may reduce psychopathology via improvements in neurocognitive functioning, which, in turn, may increase social interactions. This example illustrates how different levels of analysis (e.g., neurocognitive factors, the physical environment, and the social environment) may be combined to understand behavior in novel ways. In addition, we advocate for the collection of data across these scales and measuring their interactions, which will generate rich data sets that will continue to yield insights as new ways to model these complex multilevel systems are developed. We believe that examining all of these levels of analysis at different temporal and spatial scales in addition to modeling their relationships will lead to advances in understanding behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain*
  • Humans
  • Neurosciences*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Environment*