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.
We invite interested researchers to contact us for more information about the program, and to discuss ways in which we may work together.
Current Research Initiatives
Research at Texas Tech University
Sky Factory recently sponsored 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, Neural Correlates of Nature Stimuli: an fMRI Study, are reported below and have been published in the peer-reviewed Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD), in their Winter, 2014 issue.
This landmark study in neuroarchitecture earned the prestigious International Research Project Award at the Design & Health International Academy Awards held at the Royal York Fairmont Hotel in Toronto, Canada, on July 12, 2014, during the 10th Design & Health World Congress.
A second study examined whether incorporation of photographic sky compositions in the patient room ceiling, in a medical-surgical unit, influences clinical and behavioral outcomes. The experimental group was assessed while staying in rooms with Sky Factory SkyCeilings installed over the beds, and the control group while staying in comparable rooms without the SkyCeilings.
The second study, In the Lap of Nature: Benefits of Nature Stimulus in Patient Room Ceilings, found that Sky Factory's photographic sky compositions in a medical-surgical inpatient unit significantly lowered the level of acute stress and anxiety among subjects, by over 50% and 34% respectively.
The study report is currently undergoing peer-review in a scholorly journal.
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 ensure 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."
Sky Factory's White Paper
Scientific Research on Sky Image Ceilings is a white paper that describes the hypotheses that guide The Sky Factory's work, presents some of the existing research that supports these hypotheses, and discusses possible avenues of investigation. You may download a pdf version of the white paper, or scroll down to read it.