A Neuroscientist Reveals the Profound Real-World Benefits Art Has on Our Brains

6 March 2021

A Neuroscientist Reveals the Profound Real-World Benefits Art Has on Our Brains

Pierre Lemarquis has recently published a book called L’art Qui Guérit (Art That Heals), interpreting artworks through the lens of their healing powers—both for the viewer and the maker. Lemarquis explains that we can get the feeling that we are participating in art’s creation, or putting ourselves in the artist’s shoes.

It can be hard to pinpoint what we feel about an art piece. That is in part because our reaction is the dynamic result of neural stimulation that combines areas of the brain that normally don’t operate together: the deeper recesses of our minds, which govern the pleasure and reward system, as well as other systems dealing with knowledge, perceptual, and motor circuits. Lemarquis writes that, as a result of these processes, we start to experience “aesthetic empathy,” or the impression that an artwork is part of us—that we’ve embodied its “spirit.”

The art-activated areas of our brains that light up when both making or contemplating art, release hormones and neurotransmitters when stimulated, which are beneficial to our health and make us feel good. Hormones like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin can help treat mental illness, memory loss, or illnesses associated with stress, among other health concerns.

Research on the subject has been accumulating for some years. A 2019 World Health Organization report, based on evidence from over 3000 studies, “identified a major role for the arts” prevention of illnesses. And in 2018, doctors in Montreal, Canada, made headlines when they started prescribing patients who suffer from certain diseases with museum visits to visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Lemarquis is also a president of a new French association, which offers “cultural prescriptions” to patients, including artwork viewings. The UNESCO-supported organization has created an art collection of original works to loan to patients for their rooms at France’s Lyon Sud Hospital. Responses have been overwhelmingly positive from patients who say they feel “less alone” at the Lyon hospital. Most were noticeably more relaxed, and cheerful.

Read the whole article on Artnet News.