Art Is Good for Your Brain

Ohne Titel by Wassily Kandinsky, 1923 / Wikimedia Commons

The field of neuroaesthetics uses neuroscience to understand how art affects our brains, both when we’re making it and when we’re viewing it.

By Jessica Jacolbe

Does art matter? All intangible benefits aside, it turns out that the processes of both creating art and experiencing beauty net neural benefits. Neuroaesthetics examines art and our reactions to it from a neurological perspective. Noted neurobiologist Semir Zeki documents how art can stimulate “conceptual relations” in our mind, and not just reactions to the visual art in front of us.  According to Zeki’s findings, experiencing any sort of beauty, visual or musical, literally impacts the decision-making areas of our brain.

Art historian Gregory Minissale explains that people can view conceptual art as a puzzle. Experiencing this kind of art is like working through mathematical proof. As he writes:

There are many works of art that use puns and word games to present the viewer with visual paradoxes. One of the earliest examples is Magritte’s Treachery of Images ( Ceci n ‘est pas une pipe, 1928-1929), which, according to Zeki, “goes against everything the brain has seen, learnt and stored in its memory.”