A drawing and an extract from a book on art and neuroscience

‘When artists are in alignment, they can channel direct experiences that shatter the frameworks that bind us into submission. They can come back to tell us about what they experienced, and in the sharing, the possibility increases that we too might have these experiences of wonder. It is only when they are forced to conform to today’s societal expectations that they are pathologized, marginalized, and generally diminished’ From Own Your Self by Kelly Brogan, M.D

‘Producing emotions, reading facial expressions, and utilizing visual-spatial and musical abilities are largely right brain processes. Visuo-spatial memory activates the right hemisphere of the prefrontal cortex, as well as the parietal lobe (Walter et al. 2003). The parietal coordinates experiences of the body in real and in imagined space. Robin Vance, an artist and art therapist, reports that she moves as she makes the art. Music at times facilitates her movement. She describes movement as opening a necessary door. Robin suspects that moving towards implicit unknown somatic memories enlists her right hemisphere, leaving the left’s sequential planning and problem-solving behind. Shifting into a time-free zone, she can update, remember and forget the content and process of feeling states and narratives. Letting go of outdated, unused, emotionally charged memories, she moves into unrecognized territories of self-awareness. Her sympathetic nervous system becomes benignly aroused, increasing norepinephrine and memory functions. Moving away from anxiety and/ or loss states, which negatively impact memory, towards positive excitation, arouses memory. Dance interlinks art-making and memory. Movement invites making new memories and forgetting background memories………..

The experience of making Dance was talismanic and reduced Robin’s reoccurring back pain. She moved to forget pain, gratified with making new memories and focusing on the pleasure and joy of discovery. Forgetting may also involve the proactive processes of intrusion, or interference, as new information conflicts with or overshadows older information (Byrnes 2001). In this instance, forgetting can be construed in terms of strengthening existing coping pathways while doing the art helps distract from the pain (procedural memory). Discovery engages hippocampal and amygdala functioning. Movement stimulates endorphins and dopamine. Joy activates a sense of pleasure and involves the rewarding access of dopamine along with serotonin.’

From Chapter 9, Art Therapy and Clinical Neuroscience (2008), Jessica Kingsley Publishers

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