Neuroaesthetics and the Healing Powers of Art and Music

A girl healing through art and music

Art is one of the universal ways to express the highs and lows of life. But did you know it’s also a type of healing that dates back to ancient times? In recent years, more health experts explored the healing powers of art and music through neuroaesthetics. Here’s how the science of art and healing works and why its study is significant to your well-being.

What is Neuroaesthetics?

Neuroaesthetics is one of the newest and rapidly expanding research fields focused on the connection of psychological aesthetics, human evolution, and biological processes. The studies on this subject propose numerous research-based confirmations on how different arts-based approaches, like art and music, can improve the quality of life, mental health, speech, memory, and mobility.

(You know what else is good for healing the mind? Nature. Read more in this Project Bold Life story!)

Neuroaesthetics, a new-found discipline, recently gained momentum in the artistic and scientific communities. But unlike other new research studies, it has more criticisms than support due to the lack of evidence and understanding of how it works. Despite the continuous backlash it receives, many researchers and medical experts see great potential in using art and music as a regular part of the healing process.

Although new studies on neuroaesthetics focus on music and arts, the field is all about the investigation of cognitive neuroscience into the processes of esthetic experience. They look into how they work to maximize the body’s survival.

“For neuroaesthetics researchers, identifying the systems and brain mechanisms that respond to the arts is like finding a map to a hidden treasure.” – Susan Magsamen, Founder, and Executive Director, International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab), Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

 The Healing Influence of Art

In 1984, a study on how patients recovering from gallbladder surgery improved faster in rooms with a view of nature, unlike those roomed with brick-wall views. The research then started a buzz of other studies focused on how healing could be more than good medication, practice, and experienced clinicians. More researchers sought answers on how art-based sceneries can deliver similar positive effects to natural views.

The following studies that centralize on answering this question came to similar conclusions, like how research focused on burn care found videos of scenic beauty work as a distraction technique to the patient’s pain. There are also findings on how art influences and plays a significant role in reducing stress and channeling negative emotions of cancer patients in women’s and children’s hospitals across the country.

For decades, patients and experts alike found the healing influence of art essential in improving physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Art therapy programs focused on mindfulness showed reduced stress and anxiety for people with cancer. MRI scan results also found notable changes in the cerebral blood flow in parts related to stress response regulation and reward. The positive neuropsychological changes and improved well-being also showed improved immune function.

“Medical professionals are beginning to recognize the role that creative arts play in the healing process; increasingly, arts in medicine programs are emerging throughout the United States and worldwide.” -Dr. Heather Stuckey, Co-Director, Qualitative and Mixed Methods Core, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

 Art Therapy and Its Notable Health Benefits

Art therapy is the process of treating physical and mental health disorders using creative expression. Participants of the program create art to help them heal from psychological distress, boost their moods, and process their feelings and emotions. In addition, they aid in developing coping skills and a better understanding of treatment options.

Art therapy uses various art mediums that each patient feels comfortable using to express and gain insight into their thoughts. Contrary to popular belief, using art as part of treatment isn’t only exclusive to people with mental health issues. Nowadays, art therapy has become an integral part of helping people with dementia. Creative expression allows dementia patients to get in tune with themselves, encourage self-confidence, and promote social interactions.

Creative self-expression through different art mediums also showed improved mental well-being to the people involved, regardless of their age. In addition, combining art therapy with outdoor activities lowers stress and develops self-esteem in children and nursing home patients.

But the health benefits of art therapy don’t revolve around relieving pain and boosting moods alone. It comes with other perks that have positive effects on one’s physical and mental well-being.

Some weird art representing healing through art and music
Healing through art and music is possible, and it’s called neuroaesthetics.

Mental Health Improvement

Art therapy improves mental health in several ways, like relieving stress, reducing negative feelings around your illness, and enhancing self-esteem. In addition, it also prevents depression symptoms from worsening.

Working on an art project distracts your brain from daily stressors. Painting, writing, or sculpting requires your mind to focus on one thing for a certain period, which helps keep unwanted thoughts from popping out regularly. Due to the lack of negative presence, your stress levels lower without relying on medications. This principle works similarly with chronic pain and gnawing need to wallow in vices you’re addicted to, like alcohol and drugs.

Stimulates Cognitive Function and Emotion

Creative arts also improve your brain functions. Whenever participants in art therapy work on their projects, they lose themselves by focusing on one task. Due to this, they often feel like their minds are working and firing all around. While it may feel overwhelming, the stimulation helps inspire creativity, improve academic performance, increase resilience, and promote healthy aging.

Most adults with mild cognitive impairment participate in art therapy, and many healthcare professionals encourage them due to the overall cognition improvement the sessions provide. In addition, the program also enhances social interaction and builds self-acceptance for older people.

Children and teens with trauma also find art therapy helpful in improving their academic performance. Art projects and programs allow them to deal with their feelings of safety and acceptance. In addition, it teaches them how to cope with stressful events.

Besides cognitive function, creating or viewing art helps people tap into their feelings and emotions. In doing so, expressing your needs and wants can become easier while you learn valuable life skills. Spending time with art improves empathy, tolerance, decision-making, and self-management.

“Art therapy emerges strongly as a way to enhance their quality of life and their ability to cope with a variety of psychological symptoms.” – Dr. Dafna Regev, Art Therapist, Researcher, and Senior Lecturer, University of Haifa

 Healing with the Arts

Art is one of mankind’s ways of healing, de-stressing, and expressing their innermost thoughts and feelings. For thousands of years, various art mediums helped people cope with trauma, uplift their spirits, and boost their brain functions. While neuroaesthetics looks like a new research discipline, its principle still follows the purpose of beauty in how it heals and provides for people. The science of art has always been a treatment option for everyone- the only difference is now experts have enough evidence to back them up.


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Through timely and thoughtful articles, the book Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success, and other media, we deliver engaging content that educates, motivates and inspires you to live a Bold Life.
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