Recent studies are showing how new physical connections occur in our brains when we create something. These are the same connections that make us better able to solve complex problems, come up with novel ideas and boost our emotional health.
A study conducted by scientists in Germany in 2014 found that the act of art creation over time developed new neural connections in the default mode network that specifically related to stress management and improved memory.
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology by Jackie Andrade, you are 29% more likely to remember what you have heard during a monotonous conference call if you are doodling. This is because you are activating the default mode network in your brain just enough to keep it from wandering off into a daydream about what you are having for dinner tonight.
Repetitive art creation – like weaving, coloring, sculpting, or knitting – is theorized to mediate depression and anxiety by inducing the same deep concentration that meditation stimulates. Other theories suggest that it is the act of using your hands in a complex process that activates the parts of your brain that link movement, emotion and thinking known as the “accumbens-striatal-cortical network” (or the effort-driven reward circuit) to ultimately build emotional resilience.
And that doesn’t even account for the dopamine related effects of art appreciation associated with looking at art work, seeing a broadway show or listening to music!
It’s pretty easy to look back and recognize that the greatest civilizations in history are represented by the quality and quantity of the art they left behind. Obvious examples include the Great Pyramids at Giza, the architecture, literature and art of Ancient Greece and the legacies of the Italian Renaissance. While there are many socio-economic factors that will explain those civilizations’ successes, we are now beginning to understand how art creation – from symphonies to doodles – actually affects the way our brains function, and from that we can deduce how their art made them smarter, happier and more productive. As art and arts education continues to be attacked by proposed budget cuts, we need to continue to examine why creative endeavors are so vital to us as individuals and to us as a society.
So when you consider the importance of “being creative” on your life, consider where this moment in history will fall, and how your own creative processes (no matter how big or small) will build a bigger brighter future.
The art featured in this post is part of the Neuro Bureau Brain Art Competition Galleries.