The Transformative Power of Art
In their newly published book titled “Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us,” Susan Magsaman, founder of the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Ivy Ross, Vice President of Hardware Design at Google, present a compelling argument: spending just 20 minutes a day engaging with art can enhance problem-solving skills and improve learning abilities.
While the impact of art on individuals is profound, its effects are particularly significant in children. Listening to music or attending a play can contribute to the development of stronger prefrontal cortex skills, such as memory retention.
Fortunately, providing children with access to art doesn’t require purchasing instruments or enrolling them in classes. Simply visiting a museum can offer valuable exposure.
Even for those residing in cities without renowned art institutions, Ivy Ross assures that the quality of the art itself is not the determining factor. The act of engaging with art, whether as a creator or observer, is what enhances cognition.
Engaging with art can structurally alter our brains, according to Magsaman. Neural pathways, the connections within our brains, are capable of changing based on the information and activities we engage with. The arts, as a discipline, contribute to our cognitive development and neurobiology, benefiting areas such as mathematics.
Learning new facts or experiencing new sensations leads to the creation of new neural pathways. Magsaman emphasizes the importance of building strong neural pathways, particularly as we age, as they provide us with enhanced cognitive skills. Conversely, the lack of such experiences can result in the brain pruning itself—a concept that underscores the principle of “use it or lose it” in neuroplasticity.
Educators also recognize the advantages of arts programming, particularly for young students. Brian Kisida, co-director of the Arts, Humanities, & Civic Engagement Lab at the University of Missouri, highlights the positive impact of arts exposure on students in under-resourced schools. Such students exhibit fewer disciplinary infractions, increased engagement, higher aspirations for college, and improved performance in standardized written tests. Kisida notes that these effects are most significant in elementary-age children.
Introducing children to art at a young age can profoundly shape their brains for the better, opening up a world of cognitive growth and self-expression.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to broaden your horizons and deepen your understanding of art’s transformative power.