Architectural Neuroimmunology:
An interdisciplinary research project
exploring the impact of architectural
form on neuroinflammation


It is estimated that residents in developed economies spend up to 95.6% of their time in or around the built environment. This trend towards increased architectural exposure has attracted considerable research, particularly concerning its effects on human health. However, there is still relatively little known about the impact of architectural form on the human brain. The field of neuroarchitecture has emerged in an attempt to bridge this gap. From this scholarship, researchers have found evidence that exposure to specific variations in architectural form may mediate physiological stress responses within the body.

However, the significance of these findings may be greater than previously understood. Evidence from the field of neuroimmunology strongly suggests a causal relationship between physiological stress and neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation, in turn, has been implicated in the development of multiple neurological disorders, including depression, dementia and schizophrenia.

What has yet to be directly considered, however, is the relationship between architectural design and neuroinflammation. In response, this research investigates the impact of visual exposure to selected architectural forms on neuroinflammatory responses. In doing so, this research aims to establish the field of architectural neuroimmunology and to support the creation of a healthier built environment.

This research is jointly funded by Cambridge Trust and Wolfson College’s Mary Hesse PhD Scholarship.


Although existing research has established the relationship between architectural form and physiological stress responses, and between physiological stress responses and neuroinflammation, this study seeks to close the gap by establishing more directly, the impact that architectural design has on neurological inflammatory responses.  While the full impact of neuroinflammation on human health is not well understood, this condition has been implicated in a range of pathologies from anxiety and depression to neurodegenerative disorders.  

The magnitude and severity of this problem is highly consequential. In 2021, for example, neurodegenerative conditions were the fifth leading cause of death globally. Furthermore, one out of four hospital beds in the United Kingdom is currently occupied by someone over 65 living with dementia. Although these conditions may arise as a result of multiple aetiologies, visual exposure to synthetic architectural forms may be a contributing factor. If in fact this is the case, this research, which examines not only architectural forms but virtual reality experiences of these forms, lends itself to a number of practical and cost-efficient solutions. These kinds of interventions may be critical in the future in developing a built environment which promotes human wellness and is consequently more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.


Neuroarchitecture and Bioethics: Investigating Ethical Implications of Recent Advances in the Field of Neuroarchitecture 

Publication Forthcoming, 2023

Architectural Neuroimmunology: A Pilot Study Examining the Impact of Biophilic Architectural Design on Neuroinflammation Using Quantitative Electroencephalography

Publication Forthcoming, 2023

The Impact of Architectural Form on Physiological Stress: A Systematic Review

Publication Forthcoming, 2023

Health Implications of Virtual Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Transferability of Findings from Neuroarchitecture

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2023
Virtual architecture has been increasingly relied on to evaluate the health impacts of physical architecture. In this health research, exposure to virtual architecture has been used as a proxy for exposure to physical architecture. Despite the growing body of research on the health implications of physical architecture, there is a paucity of research examining the long-term health impacts of prolonged exposure to virtual architecture. In response, this paper considers: what can proxy studies, which use virtual architecture to assess the physiological response to physical architecture, tell us about the impact of extended exposure to virtual architecture on human health? The paper goes on to suggest that the applicability of these findings to virtual architecture may be limited by certain confounding variables when virtual architecture is experienced for a prolonged period of time. This paper explores the potential impact of two of these confounding variables: multisensory integration and gravitational perception. This paper advises that these confounding variables are unique to extended virtual architecture exposure and may not be captured by proxy studies that aim to capture the impact of physical architecture on human health through acute exposure to virtual architecture. While proxy studies may be suitable for measuring some aspects of the impact of both physical and virtual architecture on human health, this paper argues that they may be insufficient to fully capture the unintended consequences of extended exposure to virtual architecture on human health. Therefore, in the face of the increasing use of virtual architectural environments, the author calls for the establishment of a subfield of neuroarchitectural health research that empirically examines the physiological impacts of extended exposure to virtual architecture in its own right.

Keywords: virtual reality; VR; virtual architecture; neuroarchitecture; environmental health

Architectural Allostatic Overloading: Exploring a Connection between Architectural Form and Allostatic Overloading

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2023
This paper examines, conceptually, the relationship between stress-inducing architectural features and allostatic overload by drawing on literature from neuroimmunology and neuroarchitecture. The studies reviewed from the field of neuroimmunology indicate that chronic or repeated exposure to stress-inducing events may overwhelm the body’s regulatory system, resulting in a process termed allostatic overload. While there is evidence from the field of neuroarchitecture that short-term exposure to particular architectural features produce acute stress responses, there is yet to be a study on the relationship between stress-inducing architectural features and allostatic load. This paper considers how to design such a study by reviewing the two primary methods used to measure allostatic overload: biomarkers and clinimetrics. Of particular interest is the observation that the clinical biomarkers used to measure stress in neuroarchitectural studies differ substantially from those used to measure allostatic load. Therefore, the paper concludes that while the observed stress responses to particular architectural forms may indicate allostatic activity, further research is needed to determine whether these stress responses are leading to allostatic overload. Consequently, a discrete longitudinal public health study is advised, one which engages the clinical biomarkers indicative of allostatic activity and incorporates contextual data using a clinimetric approach.

Keywords: architectural health; allostatic overloading; neuroimmunology; architectural neuroimmunology; urban health


Cleo Valentine is a systems designer, neuroarchitectural researcher and doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge, Department of Architecture. Cleo received her MPhil in Architecture and Urban Studies from the University of Cambridge, before which she earned her MSc in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford and received her Bachelor’s in Urban Systems and Economics from McGill University and the University of Copenhagen. She has worked as a computational systems designer at Open Systems Lab (formerly Wikihouse) and has held positions as the Neuroaesthetics Fellow at The Centre for Conscious Design and as a guest tutor at the Royal College of Art and the Architecture Association in London. She is currently an associate at Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd. where she provides consultancy services on public health and architecture.