What is it about being on a white sandy beach that makes people happy? Why does the sound and smell of the ocean make people feel relaxed? Why is "ocean view" the most valuable phrase in real estate?
This coming weekend, cognitive neuroscientists, conservationists, researchers, artists and members of the press are gathering on the Outer Banks of North Carolina to explore these questions and the emotional connection between the ocean and humans as part the BLUEMiND2 summit.
The summit will explore the relationship between the ocean and the human brain. It will be a scientific exploration as well as a celebration of the emergence of neuroscience as a tool as it relates to the ocean biosphere.
"It is only recently, in the past two decades, that neuroscience has really expanded," said BLUEMiND founder, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, who is also a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences. Today, there is very little data that exists about the brain and its response to the ocean. Now is the time to begin asking questions about the cognitive benefits of the ocean.
Nichols explains, "All ocean conservation involves behavior change and all ocean media rests on this emotion platform. The best marketers behind the world's biggest brands secretly use neuroscience to sell sugar water. We should transparently use neuroscience to help connect people with their water planet."
This new field of study, called neuroconservation, could help protect the world's ocean by offering a fundamental understanding of people's connection to the ocean.
Nichols and his colleagues want to compile scientific data to explain how the ocean ignites our emotional senses. Mapping out this deep connection will help explain what really happens to humans in the presence of the ocean and specifically, which brain processes underlie our love of the ocean, Nichols explains.
"For my entire lifetime, the ocean has become more damaged with each passing year. I'd like to live long enough to see the day when it starts getting healthier," Nichols says. "That tipping point isn't far off if we begin to reach people in ways that truly and deeply connect them to water."