In 1999, Nancy Kanwisher and her associates published an article in Neuron (Epstein et al., 1999) that established grounds for linking the brain to experiences with architecture. She called the place in the brain where this link is made the parahippocampal place area (PPA). The PPA is defined as the set of all contiguous voxels within the parahippocampal region that respond significantly more during viewing of scenes than during viewing of faces or objects. They found that PPA activity (1) is not affected by the subjects’ familiarity with the place depicted, (2) does not increase when subjects experience a sense of motion through the scene, and (3) is greater when viewing novel versus repeated scenes. The authors had earlier reported that the PPA was significantly more active when subjects viewed complex scenes such as rooms with furniture, landscapes, and city streets than when they viewed photographs of objects, faces, house (elevations), or other kinds of visual stimuli. By place recognition, the authors mean the matching of current perceptual information to the memories of places that had been encountered in the past and stored in one’s cognitive map. They do not use the term disposition, but it seems likely that what is stored in the PPA are the dispositions of past experiences of these buildings. This research is one of the few projects that clearly relates neuroscience to architectural knowledge.
The PPA (parahippocampal region) shown in blue.
Reviewed from an article by Nancy Kanwisher