Could our physical environment affect the way that our brain works? As the fields of neuroscience and architecture converge, researchers have found evidence to support the hypothesis that our physical environment can speed up the process of neurogenesis — the rate at which our brain creates new neurons and neural connections. As Emily Badger writes in Pacific Standard:
New neurons continue to be born throughout life, particularly in the hippocampus, the part of your brain that processes new information on its way to being stored as long-term memories. This means that your capacity to add new memories and learn new skills can continue to expand. And how fast these cells are added seems directly influenced by the richness of our interactions with our environment.
If your ideas are stale, or if you’re finding a plateau in productivity, try changing your physical environment. Get up and go to a different place. Badger refers to a famous historical example:
Early in his career, when he was still struggling to find a cure for polio, Jonas Salk retreated to Umbria, Italy, to the monastery at the Basilica of Assisi. The 13th-century Franciscan monastery rises out of the hillside in geometric white stone, with Romanesque arches framing its quiet courtyards. Salk would insist, for the rest of his life, that something about this place—the design and the environment in which he found himself—helped to clear his obstructed mind, inspiring the solution that led to his famous polio vaccine.