Sky Factory Scientific Research Initiatives
The Sky Factory believes its Luminous SkyCeilings create functional illusions of real sky. Observations, testimonials, and related research on nature images and health indicate that these sky image ceilings have the ability to produce a physiological relaxation response in observers, to change subjective experiences of space in interior environments and to produce certain beneficial effects.
The Sky Factory engages in cooperative scientific research to better understand the possible mechanisms of action and the benefits of its products, as well as gather quantitative verification of these actions and benefits.
Current Research Initiatives
Research at Texas Tech University
Sky Factory is currently sponsoring a two part research project at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. The initial study was undertaken at Texas Tech's Neuroimaging Institute. Researchers generated brain maps of the neural pathways and regions associated with subjects' perception of Sky Factory photographic sky compositions and compared those results with the mapped responses of the subjects' viewing imagery established as being positive, negative or neutral. The results of this study are reported below. The second half of the study will gather data on hospital patients over one year. One group will be assessed while staying in rooms with Sky Factory SkyCeilings installed over the beds, and a second group while staying in rooms without the SkyCeilings. This study is expected to be concluded in late 2013.
Texas Tech Neuroscience Study Points to Unique Effects of Sky Factory Photographic Sky Compositions
November 1, 2012 – Texas Tech University's Neuroimaging Institute has partnered with Sky Factory to research the neural effects of Sky Factory's photographic sky compositions. The results from the study surprised researchers and indicate that Sky Factory's photographic sky compositions cause unique neural activations.
Several decades of evidence-based design research indicates access to nature or nature imagery supports healing, reduces stress and anxiety, and reduces the use of pain medications in health care settings. Illusions of nature manufactured by The Sky Factory – notably their Luminous SkyCeilings – have been installed in health care environments around the world to alleviate stress, promote patient relaxation, provide positive distraction and improve the patient experience.
A two-part, blinded, research project, conducted by Texas Tech University, College of Human Sciences' researchers Drs. Debajyoti Pati, Michael O'Boyle and Cherif Amor, is investigating the effects of Sky Factory's photographic sky compositions on brain activation and the effects of their virtual skylights on hospital patients.
The first study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to generate brain maps of neural activation in healthy subjects when exposed to Sky Factory's SkyCeilings unique photographic sky compositions and compared the brain patterns with those generated by viewing other positive, negative or neutral images.
Initial analysis of the brain maps indicates that the photographic sky compositions shared all of the characteristic neural activations of other positive images, while, additionally, activating several other unique brain regions. Of particular interest to the researchers were the activations found in the cerebellum.
"Brain activation of the cerebellum is often associated with aspects of spatial cognition, in particular the experience of extended space, as well as imagined, or real, motion through that space," said neuroscientist Dr. Michael O'Boyle. He continued, "By way of speculation, it may be that viewing Sky Factory compositions evokes a sense of expansion into or through this extended space."
Dr. Debajyoti Pati said that, "The best expectation out of a relaxation-inducing positive distraction feature is diversion of one's attention and consciousness from the immediate ailment and stressful environment. Neural activations in response to the visual stimulus used in this study suggest that cognitive diversions induced by photographic sky compositions may result in significantly different and higher levels of positive physiological responses as compared to positive images in general."
Sky Factory's founder, Bill Witherspoon, said, "Of particular interest to us is the fact that the Sky Factory sky compositions activate areas of the brain not activated by other positive images. It is the intention of Sky Factory artists to introduce compositional principles and elements into our sky images that insure the necessary visual cues are present to trigger a profound 'relaxation response' – the unique physiological state that corresponds to an expanded awareness and sense of inner peace and stability. We expect that additional research is likely to further link this experience of SkyCeilings to the biophilic engagement that is reported by end-users."