ART AND THE BRAIN
The brain is an amazing three-pound organ that controls all functions of the body, interprets information from the outside world, and embodies the essence of the mind and soul. Intelligence, creativity, emotion, and memory are a few of the many things governed by the brain.
It is made up of a whopping 100 billion nerve cells (neurons). These neurons make approximately 50 thousand connections with other nerve cells around the body. These connections in the brain are known as "the neural forest", and they allow extremely complicated communication to take place between nerve cells. It is this complexity of communication that allows us to think imaginatively, to think critically and to form new ideas.
Art has been shown to be very beneficial for our brains and to stimulate the production of these connections. Therefore, by doing art our brains are stimulated to develop our imaginations, to produce new ideas, and to increase our problem-solving skills.
Doing art involves the Default Mode Network (DMN) also known as the self-reflective centre in the brain.
Being creative has been shown to increase activation in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex (located in the DMN). The Medial Prefrontal Cortex is the area of the brain that generates ideas, beliefs and thoughts from within. When activation is increased here, it allows for a free flow of unfiltered information to pass through.
When engaging with art, this free flow of information allows us to make new associations and develop new ways of thinking. When we can think differently, we can imagine more. Imagination allows us to dream of new versions of ourselves and our futures. This gives us hope. Which is a very powerful tool.
The reward pathway is part of a system of structures in the brain that controls behaviour and memory. When we take part in activities that we find rewarding or enjoyable such as painting or dancing, the brain reacts to this by increasing the release of the neurotransmitter 'dopamine'. The release of dopamine gives you a feeling of pleasure which strengthens the 'reward pathway' in your brain associated with the enjoyable behaviour, this will then motivate you to do the behaviour again.
Engaging in art has been shown to increase blood flow in the Prefrontal Cortex which is part of the reward pathway. This is the area of the brain that is related to our emotions and motivations. This indicates that the brain finds pleasure in the process of creating art, regardless of the final art product.
"Jaysus that was nice" - The Brain.
INCREASED SENSE OF SELF
The Executive Network (EN) is the part of our brain associated with planning and the ongoing monitoring of our behaviour. It has been shown that there is decreased activity in this part of the brain when we are being creative. This means that we can free ourselves, if only momentarily, from worrying about how we're acting and what we have to do next.
The Default Mode Network (as mentioned previously) is active when a person is not focused on the outside word and is instead, reflecting internally. This area of the brain is activated when we are doing art. A similar activation of this area of the brain also occurs when we are daydreaming and meditating. All these activities allows us to lose our sense of time and place and take our mind away from outside stresses. It allows us instead, to look internally and reflect on ourselves.
The brain is cool and it loves when we are being creative and doing art!