In love with art?

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On a day when I don't have too much to do and I'm feeling rather intellectual (these days are growing few and far between this year) I'll go to a museum. I enjoy art, and the feeling that goes along with really examining a piece. Even if I'm in a not-so-hot mood before I go to a museum, I almost always feel better afterwards. But am I just psyching myself out to believe that art can actually make me feel better? Is it only the "intellectual" label that makes me feel good about myself? Or can art bring pleasure?

According to Robert Mendick of The Telegraph, art can change the blood flow in medial orbitofrontal cortex, the part of someone's brain that is associated with pleasure. In fact, the amount of said blood flow was increased by 10%--enough to make or break a good mood. The dozens of people chosen for this study, a randomized group who had little knowledge of art, had the same reaction to looking at a pleasing painting as looking at someone they are in love with. The more they liked the photo, the more active their blood flow.

This study, while being in a somewhat reputable source, has yet to be published in an academic journal. There is talk of it being in a journal later this year, but it's still up for peer review. So it's not the most trustworthy thing in the universe.

Another study indicates that art doesn't necessarily bring amorous feelings, but it does make people 'smarter.' The study shows that those who took dance lessons for an extended period of time improved their brain capacity.

As for the myth that listening to Mozart makes babies smarter? That's not entirely true--but there is evidence that people of any age, when actively studying music that they enjoy, have better concentration and helps memory. So next time your roommate says he/she wants to kill you the next time you belt out those song lyrics, just say you're getting smarter.

So art definitely does help with brain function--it may vary in how people react precisely to it, but there are rarely any negative effects that come with engaging in art. Whether it's feeling like you're in love, or gaining intellect, art can help with many aspects of the human brain. 

1 Comment

This study if definitely a good one for humanity. It's relieving to know that recreational activeis can be healthy for you. However, i'm not totally convinced about how looking at art can make you smarter. The study proved that looking at art made you happier but does that increase your ability to absorb information? It was interesting that the participants of the study who looked at art had the same blood flow as when they looked at people with whom they were in love. In that study, I think the researchers should have given the participants some sort of intelligence survey before and after they looked at the art to see if they were more able to learn. Again, it was a very interesting study but I don't think it involved enough variabels to prove much.

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