Autonomic responses to natural, physical, and social features of neighborhood environments

Daniel A Hackman, Eirini Anagnostou, Stephanie A Robert, Raphael P Weibel, Jascha Grabel, Christoph Holscher, Victor R. Schinazi

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearch


Neighborhood characteristics such as nature, deterioration and disorder, and the presence of community members may elicit differential physiological responses that contribute to stress and health. We hypothesized that neighborhood socioeconomic status and one’s prior experience may influence how these aracteristics are interpreted and thus the responses they elicit. Adult participants were assigned to a novel, virtual-reality
experience of neighborhood disadvantage or affluence, with a constant community of human avatars, while physiological responses were monitored (n = 34 each condition). The percentage of the virtual scene composed of nature, deterioration / disorder, and human avatars was calculated for each minute. We examined if timevarying characteristics were associated with electrodermal and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) reactivity and whether effects were moderated by parental education as a measure of prior experience. Overall, there were no main effects of nature, deterioration/disorder, or avatars. Exposure to human avatars was associated with electrodermal reactivity, as moderated by neighborhood condition and parental education (3-way interaction: B = -3.08, p = .03). In particular, within the affluent neighborhood greater exposure to avatars was associated with greater reactivity for those with high parental education, while the opposite effect was observed for those with
lower parental education. For deterioration/disorder, there was a trend-level interaction with parental education for RSA (B = -1.18, p = .053), indicative of greater RSA suppression to eterioration/disorder for participants with lower parental education, and the opposite for those with higher parental education, potentially indicative of emotion regulation versus stress. These results suggest that while specific neighborhood characteristics may be associated with physiological responses, such effects are nuanced and dependent on neighborhood context and prior experience.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event2019 Annual Conference of the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS): Local, national, global impacts on population health - Seattle, United States
Duration: 1 Oct 20194 Oct 2019


Conference2019 Annual Conference of the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS)
Abbreviated titleIAPHS
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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