To what extent does the physical environment impact on affective, cognitive, and physical responses of people with brain injury?

A road-map for design of a hospital environment that can shape brain recovery.


To investigate architectural design features of hospital and rehabilitation facilities that can promote recovery in people with neurological disorders, including stroke.

Michelle Shannon is completing a PhD in the AVERT Early Rehabilitation Research Group, under the supervision of Professor Julie Bernhardt, Florey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne. 

Animal and human stroke research has identified that “enriched environments” or an environment where opportunities for enhanced, voluntary social, cognitive, and physical activity provides for better brain and behavioural recovery. Concurrently, we also see interest in designing hospital and rehabilitation environments incorporating features such as single rooms, novel spatial lay-outs, and access to nature. This architectural research has been motivated by a focus on reduction in stress and complications such as falls when people are in hospital. However, little scientific research has brought insights from neuroscience and architectural research together until now. We are interested in determining what design features in hospital environments can be linked to better stroke recovery.

We use a series of study techniques (systematic reviews, observational methods e.g. behavioural mapping, and simulation of hospital environments using Virtual Reality) that merge investigation of architecture and health of people with neurological disorders, including stroke. Our findings should inform design of hospital and rehabilitation facilities to match design features to factors that can promote recovery, such as improved sleep, physical activity, social interactions, and cognition in people with stroke.


Shannon MM, Lipson-Smith R, Elf M, Olver J, Kramer S, Bernhardt J. Bringing the single versus multi-patient room debate to vulnerable patient populations: a systematic review of the impact of room types on hospitalized older people and people with neurological disorders. Intelligent Buildings International. 2018:1-19. doi: 10.1080/17508975.2018.1548339

Shannon M, Elf M, Churilov L, Olver J, Pert A, Bernhardt J. Can the physical environment itself influence neurological patient activity? Disability Rehabilitation. 2018. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1423520

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