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Supervisor: Professor Koen Steemers


Research overview:

When the human brain mastered designing built environments, it lost an essence crucial for hippocampal function: spatial complexity. This complexity promotes adult hippocampal neurogenesis, which decreases with aging but can be boosted by navigational novelty, diversity, and increased activity. These small changes have significant positive effects on learning, memory, and pattern separation.

This research began with a systematic review on how changing spatial complexity in physical environments impacts hippocampal neurogenesis and plasticity in rodents, discussing its translatability to human living spaces. This review is now published open access. It progressed to theory-building and a roadmap for the built environment’s impact on multidimensional neuroplasticity, detailed in a forthcoming paper. A pilot study exploring the relationships between residential spatial complexity, lifestyle, and mental health to predict neurogenesis examined significant complexity and lifestyle variables affecting depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment as proxy measures of neurogenesis. This study is under review, providing a stepping stone for upcoming experiments.

Future methods will use biomarkers such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and MRI scans of hippocampal volume to test spatial complexity’s impact on neurogenesis, while considering place cell remapping and cognitive mapping.



Mohamed is a neuroplasticity-focused architect and interdisciplinary researcher. Prior to attending the University of Cambridge, he completed a postgraduate program at Harvard University and an MSc in Architecture at the American University in Cairo, where he studied Applied Neuroscience. Proactive in academia since his bachelor’s thesis, Mohamed has published widely recognized peer-reviewed research. He is now pursuing a PhD at Cambridge, funded by the Cambridge Trust and Jameel Education Foundation.



New publication: open-access systematic review:

Environmental enrichment: a systematic review on the effect of a changing spatial complexity on hippocampal neurogenesis and plasticity in rodents, with considerations for translation to urban and built environments for humans