In honor of Creative Arts Therapy week, I want to highlight a recent “Art and Object” article about the fascinating intersectional field of “neuroaesthetics,” which is the use of evolving brain imaging technology to measure exactly how engaging in visual art, music, and dance impacts the human body and corresponding behavior, with evidence that only 20 minutes of art exposure daily can positively impacts both. Susan Magsamen, founder, and director of the International Arts + Mind Lab Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shares, “Curiosity, surprise, wonder — all attributes found in art for the maker or the beholder — these are really important for human development. Researchers are finding that we as humans are hard-wired for aesthetic experiences. The arts are not just fundamental aspects of our humanity, but also essential to our well-being…the way we grow and learn is through neuroplasticity. The more enriched environments, the more sensorial — not chaotic, but in a way that feels safe and often novel — is how our brains grow dramatically.”
Similarly, in“Atomic Habits,” author James Clear emphasizes, “the human body has about 11 million sensory receptors. Approximately 10 million of those are dedicated to sight.. Given that we are more dependent on vision than any other sense, it should come as no surprise that visual clues are the greatest catalyst of our behavior.” With the help of contributions from neuroaesthetics research, the invaluable and ongoing work of Creative Arts Therapists across both clinical and non-clinical settings, and spikes in mental and physical illness since the pandemic began, other fields are finally recognizing the life-enhancing power of art. Magsamen continues, “...because of noninvasive technology allowing us to get inside heads, we’re understanding more neurobiology at a detailed level. And the only reason that matters is so we can create better solutions using the arts for personalized prescriptions, fine-tuning what to dose and dosages, and understanding how to apply art forms for healing."
Indeed, doctors nation-wide are now “prescribing” art museum visits for some patients and even burnt out hospital employees. For example, the NYC Health and Hospitals Arts in Medicine program via The Whitney Museum of American Art uses professional art therapists and museum educators to facilitate staff and patient wellness programming inspired by art collections featured in their facilities. Magsamen concludes, “We have relegated art to only entertainment or enrichment – not lifeblood or birthright. We want to put art at the center of our lives, not as something that would be nice to have.”
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT LPAT PMHC
Original photo by Marcus Spiske via Unsplash