The Working Brain is a research project about Neurodiversity and Mental Health in design and the built environment.
Why are we doing this?
We are designers who want to understand how space impacts human behaviour, well-being, comfort and productivity beyond the neurotypical group of people we habitually design for. Our team at Group GSA is researching Neurodiversity and Mental Health and how we solve for this in workplace design (and further afield, e.g. in education design) to enable “success” and “inclusion”.
It is estimated that around 18% of the population is neurodivergent, which means they process information in a different way (source: Workplace Dyslexia & Specific Learning Difficulties – Productivity, Engagement and Wellbeing by Janette Beetham, Leyla Okhai). In Australia, it is estimated that 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime (source: Beyond Blue).
We started this site because we want to test ideas and experiences, engage with the community and capture data. We are researching from the viewpoint of the designer, and our multidisciplinary team includes a psychologist and psychiatrist. We also have personal lived experiences which are motivating us to undertake this research.
Presently, we are researching the following, however, our research in the future will not be limited to only these conditions:
As a part of the research, we have developing a Sensory Profile Questionnaire and a Workplace Comfort Survey and we invite your contributions.
About the research team
Our research team is comprised of designers working in the field of architecture and interior design, and collaborators include educators, psychologists, and autism advocates and activists. Our aim is to learn so we can become better designers and to create inclusive spaces that allow a diverse range of people to work at their very best.
Learn more about our research team and collaborators on our Team page.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the diversity of human brains in context of a differing approach to learning and mental health as a result of variation in the human genome. The term was first created by Australian sociologist, Judy Singer, in the late 1990s. It includes other conditions such as ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia etc.
Mental Health is a person’s condition describing their psychological and emotional well-being.
Why are we researching both neurodiversity and mental health in context of design and architecture? Because from our research, we have discovered that many neurodivergent conditions co-exist and are impacted by the built environment. We also discovered that many people with neurodivergence may be destined for mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. Discomfort, non acceptance and being misunderstood fall into why this may result. We hope we can positively impact comfort within the built environment through design as a result of this research project, therefore contributing to reducing anxiety and in turn depression.
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