• Tuesday, September 02, 2014

A look inside the artists' head

Study finds visual artists 'have structurally different brains'

Artists have structurally different brains compared with non-artists, a study has found. Participants' brain scans revealed that artists had increased neural matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery.
The research, published in NeuroImage, suggests that an artist's talent could be innate. But training and environmental upbringing also play crucial roles in their ability, the authors said. As in many areas of science, the exact interplay of nature and nurture remains unclear.
Lead author Rebecca Chamberlain from KU Leuven, Belgium, said she was interested in finding out how artists saw the world differently.
In their small study, researchers peered into the brains of 21 art students and compared them to 23 non-artists using a scanning method called voxel-based morphometry. The detailed scans revealed that the artist group had significantly more grey matter in an area of the brain called the precuneus in the parietal lobe.
“This region is involved in a range of functions but potentially in things that could be linked to creativity, like visual imagery - being able to manipulate visual images in your brain, combine them and deconstruct them,” Dr Chamberlain told the BBC's “Inside Science” programme.
Participants also completed drawing tasks and the team looked at the relationship between their performance in this task and their grey and white matter. Those better at drawing had increased grey and white matter in the cerebellum and also in the supplementary motor area - both areas that are involved with fine motor control and performance of routine actions.
Another author of the paper, Chris McManus from University College London, said it was difficult to distinguish what aspect of artistic talent was innate or learnt.


“We would need to do further studies where we look at teenagers and see how they develop in their drawing as they grow older - but I think [this study] has given us a handle on how we could begin to look at this,” he said.
Ellen Winner of Boston College, US, who was not involved with the study, commented that it was very interesting research.
She said it should help “put to rest the facile claims that artists use 'the right side of their brain' given that increased grey and white matter were found in the art group in both left and right structures of the brain.”

Source: BBC

Published: 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2014

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