Here’s How Art Stimulates The Brain
“Art leads to the growth of more nerve cells in the brain and improves the communication between neurons”
Art has an immense influence on the brain and mind. It is fascinating and is known to influence the brain of its creators as well as the observers. Pablo Picasso stated that ‘art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’ Thus, art is a major stress buster. In a study conducted at University of Westminster, people were told to visit an art gallery during their lunch break and were asked to self-report their stress levels before and after the visit to the art gallery.
After a 35-minutes observation of art in any manner they wanted, all participants reported lesser levels of stress. This study also found lower levels of cortisol which is the stress hormone, after the visit to the art gallery. It has also been observed that artists suffer lesser loneliness and depression than the general population.
A Unique Higher Cognitive Function
Art is an evolved cognitive function and serves as a form of communication between the creator of art and the viewers. The ability to create art is specific only to human beings and no other species has this ability. Almost every human being has the ability to use language as a form of communication, however, the ability to create art, specifically art that is admired for centuries, is present only in a few people.
Also, there is no doubt that the creation of art is a cognitive function and the brain plays an important role in this. However, no specific region of the brain has the ability to create art because artists have continued to create art, even after suffering varying degrees of brain damage. This suggests that multiple brain areas and neural pathways may be responsible for the ability to create art. Viewing art on the other hand, stimulates specific areas of the brain, as found in neuroimaging studies with the help of a functional MRI.
Creating Art Is Similar To Meditation
Our brain and eyes are exposed to multiple thoughts and sights round the clock. This muddles our thoughts and strains our eyes. But by engaging in art, the brain and eyes focus only on the art. Thus, while engaged in artwork, the artist needs to focus only on the details of the art like shape, design, colours, theme, etc. And this is like meditation.
Art has also been shown to increase focus, concentration and attention. Also, all the functions of the eyes are employed in painting – these are light, darkness, colour, body, location, shape, closeness, distance, rest and motion.’
Art Keeps The Brain Younger
Art encourages creative thinking too. And those engaged in artwork have improved problem solving skills. But unlike mathematics, art has no right answers. The artist is at a liberty to create his/her own solution regarding the design and scheme of colours in the art.
Furthermore, art leads to the growth of more nerve cells and improves the communication between neurons. Both the left and right hemispheres of the brain are involved in creating art, so in artists, there is better communication between the left and right brain. All these factors lead to delay the onset of dementia and memory loss.
Researchers in Germany studied the effects of creating art on brain functioning. Thus, 28 people between the ages of 62 and 70 were asked to either engage in active artwork or appreciate existing artwork. After 10 weeks, the group engaged in active artwork showed a significant improvement in psychological resilience and increased connectivity between the brain regions (as assessed with functional MRI). However, the group that just appreciated existing art, fared badly regarding both factors.
It is also interesting to note that artists never retire. They continue doing artwork until they die. Matisse and Pablo Picasso created art till they died at the ages of 84 and 91 respectively, whereas Louise Bourgeois worked tirelessly till she died at the age of 98. While it is obvious that it was mainly their love and passion of artwork that kept them going until their ripe ages, it is also possible that artwork contributed in keeping their brains active and lucid in their old age.
Art Can Boost Ego And Self-Esteem
Creating art makes one feel good. This happens as creating art leads to an increase In the level of dopamine, the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter. This feel good emotion is further enhanced, it others appreciate one’s artwork. Hence, a sure shot way of enhancing your child’s self-esteem is to hang their paintings on the wall or refrigerator as art boosts one’s ego, self-esteem and confidence.
Pick up a brush and canvas and start painting to live a happier life, have a healthier brain and to live longer!