Art As Therapy
The Neuroscience Of Experiencing Art
Researchers all over the world are gathering information from brainwave measurements, brain scans, neural probes and many more sources to try and find the common factor which may unlock the mystery of art’s effect upon the psyche. We do know that the brain decides incredibly fast (faster even than our consciousness realizes) whether or not it likes a piece of art (much the same phenomenon, interestingly, can be observed when the brain encounters new people). And while the brain can change its judgement, to do so requires a degree of considered exposure combined with positive associations. We also know that different kinds of art light up different portions of the brain. A painting or sculpture with plenty of dynamic, swirly or diagonal lines will wake up the brain’s visual motor cortex (which deals with movement). A painting which resembles a sad face will bring out an empathetic response in our minds. And looking at a piece of art we enjoy (unsurprisingly) brings the brain’s reward circuits to life.
Although we do not yet quite understand why our brains respond in the way that they do when viewing art, it is clear that our minds are very engaged with it. If they’re this engaged with simply appreciating art, it stands to reason that they can be powerfully transformed and healed through the even more intense process of creating it.