Building a Better Brain Through Art

Transcript of Neuro Nugget Video:

The idea that art has a measurable effect on the brain and its structure has support from a growing number of scientific studies.

“Creativity is making new connections, new synapses,” says Ivy Ross, who is Vice President of Hardware Design at Google and co-author of the New York Times bestseller “Your Brain on Art: How the Art Transforms Us.” Ross co-wrote the book with Susan Magsamen, Director of the International Arts and Mind Lab at John Hopkins University’s School of Medicine. Magsamen says, “Arts effect on the brain is most dramatic in children.” “Children that are playing music, their brain structure actually changes and their cerebral cortex actually gets larger,” Magsamen says.

A person’s neural circuitry changes in response to activities like learning a new song or a new dance step or how to play a character on stage. A growing number of researchers believe these changes result in a brain that is better prepared to acquire a wide range of skills, including math and science. Music, dance, drawing, storytelling, all of these have been a part of human culture for tens of thousands of years. As a result, we are literally wired for art. And when we make art, we increase the brain’s plasticity. Its ability to adapt in response to new experiences.

Children who engage in the arts are better learners. Ross says, “Students with access to art education are five times less likely to drop out of school and four times more likely to be recognized with high achievement.” The arts also can teach the brain skills that it’s unlikely to get in the classroom. “I was a dancer for like 12 years, and I really think it gave me a sense of form and negative space. It also seems to improve mental health,” Ross noted. Even just 15 minutes of dance reduces stress and anxiety. The activity causes the brain to release those feel-good hormones like endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.

The link between arts and academic achievement has been noted by educators for many, many years. But it’s only in the past couple of decades that technology has allowed scientists to see some of the changes in the brain that explain why. In the past, scientists used functional MRIs to show that professional musicians had greater plasticity than non-musicians in the hippocampus, which is an area involved in storing and retrieving information in the brain.

The arts provide children with the kind of brain development that’s really important for building strong neural pathways, including pathways involved in focus, memory, and creativity. Despite growing evidence that arts can improve performance in many other areas, activities like music and drawing have fallen out of favor in education and in our culture. We often optimize for productivity and push the arts aside. We think we’ll be happy, but we are often not, and our brains are suffering as a result. Wanna learn more about your brain and how it functions? Call and schedule your brain map today.


Posted on

May 24, 2023