Study Says Making Art Is Good For Your Brain, And We Say You Should Listen

Omaha Sun Times

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” so Pablo Picasso once famously proclaimed. Though we expect the pompous Cubist was being his usual haughty self when he uttered the well known quote, his belief in art’s transcendent qualities might not be too far from the scientific mark.

New cognitive research out of Germany suggests that “the production of visual art improves effective interaction” between parts of the brain. The study, conducted on a small population of newly retired individuals (28 people between the ages of 62 and 70), concludes that making art could delay or even negate age-related decline of certain brain functions.

Essentially, if art isn’t washing away the dust accumulating on your soul, it might be cleaning up your brain instead.

To explore the idea, illuminated by the study’s title, “How Art Changes Your Brain: Differential Effects of Visual Art Production and Cognitive Art Evaluation on Functional Brain Connectivity,” researches gathered together 14 men and 14 women and randomly engaged half of them in a hands-on art class and the other half in an art appreciation course.

Those enrolled in the hands-on art workshop attended one weekly, two-hour class in which they learned painting and drawing techniques and produced their own original art. Those enrolled in the appreciation course learned from an art historian how to analyze paintings and took part in group critiques.

The study lasted for a period of 10 weeks, in which scientists at the University Hospital Erlangen tested the participants twice — once before classes began and once at the end — using fMRI technology and a scale meant to measure emotional resilience.

After comparing the before-and-after tests, the team led by neurologists Anne Bolwerk and Christian Maihofner observed “a significant improvement in psychological resilience” as well increased levels of “functional connectivity” in the brain amongst participants of the visual art production group. The art-appreciation group fared worse on both.

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