The fact that art has a profound impact on people is undeniable. It may simply attract us in a superficial way, but it also has a strong power as a stimulus to draw something from our memory into our focus of consciousness. Everyone’s reactions to this process are different. They may take us to the past or very remote places, but their ability to produce an effect on us is unquestionable. Let’s talk about the effect of art on our brains.
Our brains can recognize the shapes of a painting, its lines, and shadows immediately. They also try to notice and recognize faces in everything that comes into our sight. That is because the brain is used to seeking familiarity with objects from patterns or shapes, even when the information is incomplete.
When we are confronted with artistic production, our brain works to give shape and meaning to the incoming information. We have an innate ability to organize patterns until they start making sense. It is also known that looking at an art piece can trigger an effect similar to looking at a loved one: the blood flow to the brain increases by up to 10%.
It creates the effect of “embodied cognition”
Another tendency of the brain is to want to place itself “inside” the painting. Our mirror neurons convert the images we see into real emotions. This is what embodied cognition mean in simple words.
The more the painting is analyzed, the more our brain will place itself inside and “translate” the message of the painting into human emotions. That is why the visualization of a desert landscape can produce a sensation of the sun touching the skin or even warmth.
It activates our brain chemistry.
In a series of pioneering brain-mapping experiments, Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at University College London, examined volunteers’ brains as they looked at 28 images. They found that the same part of the brain that gets excited when you fall in love with someone is stimulated when you look at large works of art or images of great beauty. Viewing art triggers a sudden increase in the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, leading to feelings of intense pleasure.
Dopamine and the orbitofrontal cortex are known to be involved in desire and affect, which evoke pleasurable feelings in the brain. This powerful effect is often associated with strong romantic feelings and recreational drug use. A similar feeling arises when we try to create art our own art, so go on and set your inner artist or essay writer free anytime you want to experience strong emotional rise.
It develops creativity and makes us create art ourselves.
If simply looking at art produces these kinds of responses in the brain, engaging in the creative process goes much further. In any of its variants, creating art revitalizes the brain in ways that are distinct from simply looking at it.
Studies have associated an effect of art on our brains with increases in functional connectivity in the brain and enhanced activation of the visual cortex. Creating art can be compared to exercise for the brain. Just how physical exercise helps the body, creating art can keep the mind sharp and clear when a person gets older.
Even creating one’s own art helps to cope with stressful and difficult situations that arise in our daily lives. You don’t need to be a renowned artist to create art. On the contrary, the creative process without expectations is the way to enjoy it fully.
It helps us with physical and mental issues.
Art therapy and group painting classes have both established themselves as a growing trend. Group art classes in local studios and even bars allow you to socialize with friends while creating a beautiful work of art. And if you are too tired of social interactions, some coloring books made for adults can help you relax and take the tension out of a stressful day.
Art applied to therapy is a very effective outreach tool. The development of artistic skills significantly improves attention, awareness and emotional control, as well as self-awareness and self-esteem.
In addition, it helps to solve problems that affected us in the past and manifest themselves in the present. This effect of art on our brain is used with people suffering from post-traumatic stress resulting from war, sexual abuse, or natural disasters. It has also been shown to be effective with individuals suffering from physical illnesses such as cancer, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, as well as numerous psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.
The brain’s reaction to the visual stimuli of a work of art is only the first part of a multi-step process. Understanding how to look at art allows you to make the most of the experience by keeping your brain active and engaged. Starting a creative process of your own is often the next step