Art experts say that it should excite and irritate, but scientists know that contact with art calms down. The British even let you experience it for yourself by suggesting a visit to a gallery with an electroencephalograph on your head. You can see with your own eyes how a work of art affects our brain. You can prescribe such art therapy, especially for long autumn evenings.
The sense of beauty is very subjective, but objective scientific research clearly shows that paintings – just like all art – influence our brain. – I think we all feel our bodies change when we look at something beautiful or intriguing. Here, in this gallery, visitors can see what exactly is happening in their brain at that time. The brain’s reaction to images is translated into these colorful visualizations, says Jenny Waldman, head of the Art Fund.
A pioneering project is just starting in Great Britain. Over the next few months, some museums and art galleries will be able to be visited with an electroencephalograph on the head. The device records the bioelectric activity of the brain, and this activity changes visibly under the influence of art. – It’s a very interesting experience. You walk around the gallery, look at the paintings, and then you can see your emotions on the screen – explains Dr. Vaish Ferizoli, a guest of the gallery.
For several years now, scientists have had irrefutable evidence that art has a positive impact on our well-being. When we look at something beautiful, something aesthetic, the central nervous system releases dopamine – an important neurotransmitter related to the reward mechanism. So our body reacts to paintings by, for example, Van Gogh the same way it reacts to delicious food or sex. – When you perceive what you are looking at as something beautiful, part of the frontal lobe in your brain is activated. This is the same region of the brain from which signals of reward and pleasure are released, and where we place our sense of self-identity. It’s fascinating that such an important place is also activated when watching art, notes Dr. Ahmad Beyh, a neurologist.
The power of art
Under the influence of art, in addition to releasing dopamine, blood flow also increases. And even by 10 percent. This allows more oxygen to reach the brain. Looking at a beautiful painting triggers a reaction in the body like looking at the face of a loved one. These are temporary effects. Extensive research conducted in Great Britain also shows that engaging with art – regularly and at least once a week – significantly reduces stress levels and increases life satisfaction. The work we come into contact with does not have to be outstanding. Active analysis of art and a conscious attempt at interpretation are key.
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That’s why it’s worth talking to someone about what we watch. – The vast majority of people agree that going to a museum and admiring works of art has a positive impact on us. But at the same time, only 40 percent of us visit a museum at least once a year. Come and check it out for yourself. See how art affects you – Jenny Waldman appeals.
Even better for our brain than watching art is creating it. Even amateur, even completely inept. All positive effects are then strengthened.
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Main photo source: Reuters