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      Complexity As Key to Designing Cognitive-Friendly Environments for Older People

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          The lived environment is the arena where our cognitive skills, preferences, and attitudes come together to determine our ability to interact with the world. The mechanisms through which lived environments can benefit cognitive health in older age are yet to be fully understood. The existing literature suggests that environments which are perceived as stimulating, usable and aesthetically appealing can improve or facilitate cognitive performance both in young and older age. Importantly, optimal stimulation for cognition seems to depend on experiencing sufficiently stimulating environments while not too challenging. Environmental complexity is an important contributor to determining whether an environment provides such an optimal stimulation. The present paper reviews a selection of studies which have explored complexity in relation to perceptual load, environmental preference and perceived usability to propose a framework which explores direct and indirect environmental influences on cognition, and to understand these influences in relation to aging processes. We identify ways to define complexity at different environmental scales, going from micro low-level perceptual features of scenes, to design qualities of proximal environments (e.g., streets, neighborhoods), to broad geographical areas (i.e., natural vs. urban environments). We propose that studying complexity at these different scales will provide new insight into the design of cognitive-friendly environments.

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          Most cited references 119

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          Load theory of selective attention and cognitive control.

          A load theory of attention in which distractor rejection depends on the level and type of load involved in current processing was tested. A series of experiments demonstrates that whereas high perceptual load reduces distractor interference, working memory load or dual-task coordination load increases distractor interference. These findings suggest 2 selective attention mechanisms: a perceptual selection mechanism serving to reduce distractor perception in situations of high perceptual load that exhaust perceptual capacity in processing relevant stimuli and a cognitive control mechanism that reduces interference from perceived distractors as long as cognitive control functions are available to maintain current priorities (low cognitive load). This theory resolves the long-standing early versus late selection debate and clarifies the role of cognitive control in selective attention. ((c) 2004 APA, all rights reserved)
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            Social capital and the built environment: the importance of walkable neighborhoods.

            I sought to examine whether pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods encourage enhanced levels of social and community engagement (i.e., social capital). The study investigated the relationship between neighborhood design and individual levels of social capital. Data were obtained from a household survey that measured the social capital of citizens living in neighborhoods that ranged from traditional, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented designs to modern, car-dependent suburban subdivisions in Galway, Ireland. The analyses indicate that persons living in walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods have higher levels of social capital compared with those living in car-oriented suburbs. Respondents living in walkable neighborhoods were more likely to know their neighbors, participate politically, trust others, and be socially engaged. Walkable, mixed-use neighborhood designs can encourage the development of social capital.
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              Towards passive brain-computer interfaces: applying brain-computer interface technology to human-machine systems in general.

              Cognitive monitoring is an approach utilizing realtime brain signal decoding (RBSD) for gaining information on the ongoing cognitive user state. In recent decades this approach has brought valuable insight into the cognition of an interacting human. Automated RBSD can be used to set up a brain-computer interface (BCI) providing a novel input modality for technical systems solely based on brain activity. In BCIs the user usually sends voluntary and directed commands to control the connected computer system or to communicate through it. In this paper we propose an extension of this approach by fusing BCI technology with cognitive monitoring, providing valuable information about the users' intentions, situational interpretations and emotional states to the technical system. We call this approach passive BCI. In the following we give an overview of studies which utilize passive BCI, as well as other novel types of applications resulting from BCI technology. We especially focus on applications for healthy users, and the specific requirements and demands of this user group. Since the presented approach of combining cognitive monitoring with BCI technology is very similar to the concept of BCIs itself we propose a unifying categorization of BCI-based applications, including the novel approach of passive BCI.

                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                30 August 2016
                : 7
                1School of Applied Psychology, University College Cork Cork, Ireland
                2The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin Dublin, Ireland
                Author notes

                Edited by: Isabella Pasqualini, EPFL, Switzerland

                Reviewed by: Axel Heinrich Winneke, Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT, Germany; Rita Berto, Aosta Valley University, Italy

                *Correspondence: Marica Cassarino, mcassarino@ 123456ucc.ie

                This article was submitted to Cognitive Science, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2016 Cassarino and Setti.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 175, Pages: 12, Words: 0
                Funded by: University College Cork 10.13039/501100001636


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