Exposure of individuals to natural environments, such as forests and coastlines, can promote stress reduction and assist in mental recovery following intensive cognitive activities. Settings as simple as hospital window views onto garden-like scenes can also be influential in reducing patients' postoperative recovery periods and analgesic requirements. This paper reviews the evidence supporting the exploitation of these restorative natural environments in future healthcare strategies. The paper also describes early research addressing the development of multisensory, computer-generated restorative environments for the benefit of patients with a variety of psychologically related conditions (including depression, attention deficit disorder, pain, and sleep deficit), who may be unable to access and experience real natural environments, such as those in hospices, military rehabilitation centers, and long-term care facilities. The Table of Contents art is a virtual reconstruction of Wembury Bay, in the southwest of the UK, based on imported Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) to provide the topography and a high-resolution aerial image to provide a template for the location of 3D building and vegetation models, rock features, and pathways. The 3D environment is rendered using the Unity 3 Game Development Tool and includes spatial sound effects (waves, wind, birdsong, etc.), physics-based features (such as early morning sea mist), time-of-day cycles, and real-time weather changes. The Village Church of St. Werburgh can also be seen in this image. © 2011 American Chemical Society.
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