Who knew that the architect behind St. Paul's Cathedral was also an anatomist who diagrammed the human brain? Fast-forward three centuries, and new scientists of the brain are learning why our sensory experience in a place like a cathedral — the incense, the soaring music, the stained glass, and the light — is physiologically good for us. Esther Sternberg is an immunologist and a pioneer on this new frontier that's giving rise to disciplines like neuroimmunology and environmental psychology. Architects are working with scientists to imbue the spaces we move through — the sights, sounds, and smells of them — with active healing properties. And Esther Sternberg says all of us can create surroundings and even portable sensations to manage stress and tap our brain's own internal pharmacies.
Esther Sternberg is Research Director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She was formerly at the National Institutes of Health. Her books include Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being, and The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions.