Neighborhood-2-Brain (2014-2015)

How does the quality of neighborhood features affect health? What brain systems mediate these links? And finally, can improving a neighborhood change resident behavior and physiology in ways that promote better health?

The positive (e.g., green space) and negative (e.g., broken windows, tobacco/alcohol outlets) features of the neighborhoods we live in can have a significant impact on our behavior, physical health and well-being. As part of the project, team members 1) developed mobile and web-based technologies to map and generate visual stimuli associated with neighborhood disorder and tobacco/alcohol/drug use; 2) worked with neighborhood residents to crowd-source and visually document neighborhood features; and 3) conducted research on the brain and stress responses to viewing disordered neighborhood features among residents. Next, they explored policy implications of their findings and designed studies to assess the effects of neighborhood improvement (e.g., converting vacant lots to green space; decreasing tobacco/alcohol advertising) on resident behavior and health. By partnering with Durham residents to engage in community mapping, and bringing together scholars with diverse backgrounds, the team gained greater understanding of the impact of neighborhood environment on health. 

A study developed a novel method of remotely monitoring tobacco product purchases made by smokers in Durham County. Findings revealed that this methodology can be utilized as an important tool to monitor tobacco-purchasing behavior. Tobacco purchase locations been geocoded and will serve as the basis for analysis of relations between tobacco retail outlet characteristics, such as the number of storefront tobacco ads) and smoking outcomes.


Summer 2014 – Spring 2015

Team outcomes

Using Daily Field-based Surveys to Measure Tobacco-purchasing Behavior (poster by Simardeep Nagyal, Matt Hallyburton, Taylor Jackson, F. Joseph McClernon)

Team Leaders

  • Francis McClernon, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
  • Leonard Ng'Eno, Social Science Research Institute
  • Michael Nipper, Duke - Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Candice Odgers, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Lin Wang, School of Medicine-Community and Family Medicine

/graduate Team Members

  • Madeleine George, Psychology-PHD, Psychology-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Michael Koh, Program II (AB)
  • Pritam Mathivanan, Electrical & Computer Egr(BSE), Computer Science (BSE2)
  • Simardeep Nagyal, Cultural Anthropology (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Joy Piontak, Social Science Research Institute-Center for Child and Family Policy