In an ambitious new study, scientists will investigate whether natural bird calls can improve a person's mood, attention and even creativity.
The idea of biophilia — that humans innately love spending time in nature — has been around for generations. It was elevated to a scientific concept during the 20th century's ecological awakening, first by psychologist Erich Fromm and later by ecologist E.O. Wilson. And earlier this year, the musician Björk gave it pop-culture currency by naming her new album "Biophilia."
But while it's well-known that we get psychological benefits from nature in general, it's not always clear which parts of nature provide those perks. Is a city park as good as an old-growth forest? What about less verdant natural settings, like deserts or tundras? Can those offer biophilic benefits, too?
Scientists have been unraveling more and more of this mystery in recent years, shedding new light on the human brain in an ecological context. Much of the focus has been on visual hallmarks of nature (like trees, flowers, mountains or beaches), but a potentially groundbreaking new study takes a slightly different approach. Set to unfold over the next three years, it aims to reveal how bird songs affect human brains.