How art changes your brain

November 20, 2019 By Julian W Off


Art can be a therapeutic source, bringing one feelings of calm and happiness. Researchers in Germany have found in a study that interactions with visual art pieces can relieve stress, bring about greater self collection and regulate heart rate and cortisol levels. 

28 post-retirement adults participated in the study and were segregated into two different groups. One group was tasked to actively create new art pieces while the other was tasked with evaluating art pieces by artists. 

The participants were evaluated on their ability to manage stress. Which would allow them to function normally even with stress stimulates. 

In the group which actively created art pieces, the scientists found that the participant’s abilities to cope with stress significantly improved at the end of the experiment. 

In the group that evaluated art pieces, the scientists did not find any significant improvement in the participant’s abilities to cope with stress. 

To analyse participants stress coping abilities an fMRI was conducted to analyse the regions in the brain that are associated with the reward mechanism, self collection and the ability to relate with others’ emotions and intentions.

Default Mode Network (DMN), medial parietal cortex (posterior and anterior cingulate cortex)  (PCC, ACC),  precuneus (preCUN), inferior parietal lobule (IPL), superior and inferior parietal lobules (SPL)

















The scientists further anlaysed the  visual cortex to assess the connectivity of the DMN in both groups.

To link participants’ stress management, an analysis of covariance was done on the data. Greater connectivity of the DMN with the middle temporal gyri (MTG) and superior temporal gyri (STG) was associated with greater stress tolerance. 

brain 2

Actively creating art is scientifically proven to increase one’s stress tolerance. For many retirees, art creation activity may be an avenue for them to deal with chronic stress associated with old age.

Many therapies and treatments can also be gleaned from this study to help patients who struggle with stress disorders.

A painting a day keeps the blues away!

Article Source: How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity
Bolwerk A, Mack-Andrick J, Lang FR, Dörfler A, Maihöfner C (2014) How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity. PLOS ONE 9(7): e101035.

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