Research Highlights

Charting Physiological Responses to Neighborhood Environment

Does a cracked sidewalk, broken window or graffiti make a neighborhood feel less safe? An interdisciplinary Nebraska team aims to find out using sensory assessment tools that measure pedestrians’ physiological responses to environmental conditions. The research provides evidence-based data of perception to augment traditional methods of visual audits and surveys. Construction engineer Changbum Ahn and community and regional planner Yunwoo Nam are teaming for the National Science Foundation-funded project. In the study, GPS-enabled smartphones are synced to motion sensors attached to participants that measure gait stability, walking patterns, heart rate and skin temperature. Physiological data help researchers identify problem areas – for example, if participants’ heart rates, gaits or skin temperatures change when they encounter a pothole. Ultimately, researchers plan to make recommendations for safer, more walkable neighborhoods.

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