Dr. Browning's interests are directed at understanding the effects of natural environments on human health and well-being. Recent innovations in health technologies provide rich sets of tools to address these goals. Improvements in wearable sensors, smartphone-based diagnoses, and immersive virtual environments provide opportunities to pose new research questions with increasing validity and decreasing cost. His primary foci are physiological responses to virtual environments and spatial relationships between greenspace and geo-located big datasets. He is now testing how 360-degree videos of nature in virtual reality settings influence stress-recovery compared with actually sitting outdoors in nature. Dr. Browing is also collaborating with the health insurance provider Kaiser Permanente to investigate the relationship between greenspace around where 4M Californians live and how much they spend on health care. He is also collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service to examine the relationship between greenspace around Chicago schools and how well students do on standardized tests. Projects in development include:
- Clinical studies examining the therapeutic benefits of nature videos in consumer-grade virtual reality headsets - including rates of adoption of these technologies - for self-managed healthcare
- Laboratory experiments testing how simulated visual, audio, olfactory, and haptic natural landscapes uniquely impact stress, attention, cognitive functioning, and human attitudes
- Epidemiological work on how residential greenness impacts human health along rural-urban gradients
Through these and subsequent projects, Dr. Browning aims to define how different types and dosages of nature exposure translate to specific health outcomes (i.e., ADHD, anxiety, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, respiratory disease, and allergies) and socio-ecological outcomes (i.e., pro-environmental behavior).
This information will then be used to inform urban greenspace policy and management.