On the Brains of Artists

Artists brains are ‘structurally different’ claims new study

Limited study found more grey and white matter in artists’ brains connected to visual imagination and fine motor control

It’s a truism to say that artists see the world differently from the rest of us, but new research suggests that their brains are structurally different as well.

The small study, published in journal NeuroImage, looked at the brain scans of 21 art students and 23 non-artists using a scanning method known as voxel-based morphometry.

Comparisons between the two groups showed that the artist has more neural matter in the parts of their brain relating to visual imagery and fine motor control.

Although this is certainly a physical difference it does not mean that artists’ talents are innate. The balance between the influence of nature and nurture is never easy to divine, and the authors say that training and upbringing also plays a large role in ability.

The brain scans were accompanied by various drawing tasks, with the researchers finding that those who performed best at these tests routinely had more grey and white matter in the motor areas of the brain.

“The people who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory,” lead author Rebecca Chamberlain from KU Leuven University, Belgium told the BBC.

The artists also showed significantly more grey matter in the part of the brain called the parietal lobe, a region involved with a range of activities that include the capacity to imagine, deconstruct and combine visual imagery.

Scientists also suggest that the study would help put to rest the idea that artists predominantly use the right side of their brain, as the study showed that increased grey and white matter was found equally distributed.

Despite this, previous research has suggested that there are some hard-wired structural differences between individuals’ brains, with some of the divides falling across gender lines.

A ‘pioneering study’ published in December last year found that male brains had more neural connections running front to back while female brains had more connections between the right and left hemisphere. Scientist suggested that this could explain why men are ‘better at reading maps’ and women are ‘better at remembering a conversation.

from:   http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/artists-brains-are-structurally-different-claims-new-study-9267513.html


Here is a video:



Tasting Words & Hearing Colors

Why It Pays to Taste Words and Hear Colors

Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 22 November 2011 Time: 05:01 PM ET
colored numbers
Of the more than 60 known types of synesthesia, grapheme-color synesthesia, in which people see every number or letter tinged with a particular color, is the most common.
CREDIT: hkeita | Shutterstock

While most of us see sights and hear sounds, some people also hear colors and taste words, a mysterious phenomenon called synesthesia, which occurs when stimulating one of the five senses triggers experiences in an unrelated sense. Now researchers suggest this unusual trait can provide numerous mentalbenefits, potentially explaining why evolution has kept it around.

Scientists first discovered synesthesia in the 19th century, noting that certain people saw every number or letter tinged with a particular color, even though they were written in black ink. This condition, known as grapheme-color synesthesia, is the most common of the more than 60 known variants of synesthesia.

Although synesthesia can occur due to drug use, brain damage, sensory deprivation and even hypnosis, research has revealed that 2 percent to 4 percent of the general population naturally experiences synesthesia, with the phenomenon tending to run in families. Recent work analyzing the brains of people with grapheme-color synesthesia has revealed it is caused by an increased number of connections between sensory regions of the brain.

A key question regarding synesthesia is why the phenomenon has survived when it might not seem to provide any benefit. Now scientists, in a review of past research in the field, are finding answers from those who have it — synesthetes.

For instance, synesthesia is purported to be seven times more common in artists, poets and novelists than in the rest of the population. Cognitive neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran at the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues suggest that mutant genes responsible for synesthesia might lead people to perceive links not only between seemingly unrelated sensations but also between seemingly unrelated ideas, leading to greater creativity.

Intriguingly, synesthetes at times also demonstrate remarkable memory abilities. For instance, British writer Daniel Tammet said that for him, each positive integer up to 10,000 has its own unique shape, color, texture and feel, and said he has used his synesthesia to memorize the mathematical constant pi to 22,514 digits. Scientists have suggested that synesthesia might be linked with savantism, the remarkable expertise, ability or brilliance in one or more areas at times seen in people with autism or other mental disorders.

In addition, researchers have found that number-color synesthetes are better than others at discriminating very similar colors, while mirror-touch synesthetes — those who experience tactile sensations on their own body when they watch someone else being touched — possess a more sensitive sense of touch. This suggests the senses of synesthetes may be enhanced in very subtle ways.

Altogether, researchers suggest that synesthesia could yield vital clues toward a better general understanding of the human mind.

“Synesthesia appears to rely on many of the same mechanisms present in all individuals,” neuroscientist David Brang at the University of California, San Diego, told LiveScience.

Brang noted that synesthesia may be an extreme variant of multisensory processing — that is, how the brain processes information from multiple senses at once.

“Understanding the differences between this exaggerated type of multisensory processing can tell us about the inner workings of normal multisensory processes as well,” Brang said. He added that synesthetes might also help us better understand the neuroscience of creativity.

Brang and Ramachandran detailed their findings online Nov. 22 in the journal PLoS Biology

from:    http://www.livescience.com/17156-synesthesia-taste-words-benefits.html

500 Years of Women Portraits

500 Years Of Female Portraits In Western Art (VIDEO)

First Posted: 9/19/11 11:48 PM ET   Updated: 9/19/11 11:48 PM ET

New to us at HuffPost Arts, Philip Scott Johnson‘s “500 Years Of Female Portraits In Western Art” is intriguing in its ability to trace how representations of women have changed throughout art’s history. Watch as Johnson delicately weaves together famous portraits to show what traits and characterisitcs of the female figure have been deemed ‘ideal’ from epoch to epoch. See this list for all the paintings used in the video.

Women In Art from Philip Scott Johnson on Vimeo.