Science picks our brains about art

I’ve been enjoying reading North Coast Cafe for a few weeks, but only recently did I dig deeper into the Visual Arts category, and found this fascinating January 26th entry:
Emotions in Art and the Brain. This was the theme name for a conference on neuroesthetics that was held back in January and reported in the Washington Post:

If you stick people into a machine that does functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI — a brain scan, in layman’s terms) and then show them paintings they find beautiful, you can see certain characteristic bits of their brains going wild with delight — or so suggests the recent research of Semir Zeki, an eminent neuroscientist at University College London who’s recently also become a leader in neuroaesthetics. The brain shows a slightly different response to ugliness, including stirring up motor centers that also buzz when someone’s angry.

Do read the posting and the article for yourself. I do believe the findings have some truth, and the writer of North Coast Cafe gives some examples of these feelings. Yet I’m left with many questions. Why does artmaking make us artists feel better? Why do some art works create a happy buzz for one person and an angry buzz for another, or no reaction at all? Are some people more “sensitive” to art naturally, or is it because of education? As an artist myself, these questions frequently test me. I wonder if science will be really ever be able to measure all these complexities in art’s effect on human emotions, and is it necessary?

April 30, 2004 in Being an Artist, Concepts by Marja-Leena