Our brains interpret the world around us, taking in the sights, sounds, textures and smells of the world. But how does our brain respond when we observe art? What goes on in its neural circuits when we see or create something beautiful? Susan Magsamen, executive director of the International Arts and Mind Lab of the Brain Science Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is pioneering the effort to marry the arts and research to find answers to these questions. The answers and the quantifiable results seen in patients may turn medical and social interventions as we know them on their heads.
Neuroasthetics is the study of the human response to their environment at the neurological level. Using molecular research, brain imaging and activity monitoring systems, researchers can observe the neurological impact art therapy has on patients. The program is seeing results in patients of all ages who were previously unresponsive to conventional cognitive behavioral therapy or would have otherwise been medicated to treat their symptoms. Through observations of the brain and body, researchers can quantify the benefits of art therapy for individuals and scale up the programs for entire patient populations.