more on art appreciation, health and depression

Here are results from another interesting study on the effects of art appreciation and health.

The study looked at about 200 people who had had strokes and divided them up according to whether or not they liked and appreciated art.  It was about half and half who said that they did.

The researchers found that the ones who reported liking art were also in better health than those who reported the opposite — they had an easier time walking, were more energetic and less depressed, and felt happier and less anxious. Researchers found their memory and communication skills were also better.

“In our study, the ‘art’ group of patients showed a comparable clinical picture to the ‘no art’ group,” Vellone said in the statement. “This is important because it means that patients belonging to the ‘art’ group had a better quality of life independently from the gravity of stroke. The results suggest that art may make long term changes to the brain which help it recover when things go wrong.”

Recently, a study from researchers at University College London found that the same parts of the brain are stimulated when you look at art as when you are in love, the Telegraph reported. That’s because the chemical dopamine is released into the part of the brain known for its function in promoting feelings of affection and desire.

After more than three years of research, the results of the $2.1 million project were published in March of 2008 in a report titled “Learning, Arts, and the Brain.” Several studies in the report suggested that training in the arts might be related to improvements in math or reading skills. In one of these studies, a University of Oregon team, headed by psychologist Michael Posner, observed the brain activity of children four to seven years old while they worked on computerized exercises intended to mimic the attention-focusing qualities of engaging in art. The researchers concluded that the arts can train children’s attention, which in turn improves cognition.

Working in high school art classes, [researchers] found that arts programs teach a specific set of thinking skills rarely addressed elsewhere in the school curriculum—what they call “studio habits of mind.” One key habit was “learning to engage and persist,” meaning that the arts teach students how to learn from mistakes and press ahead, how to commit and follow through. “Students need to find problems of interest and work with them deeply over sustained periods of time,” write Hetland and Winner.

Art improves mood, reduces depression and anxiety, deepens connections with other people. In some cases, art even boosts cognition, claim some caregivers and clinicians who work with people engaged in this form of therapy. The evidence is largely qualitative and anecdotal, but some small placebo-controlled studies hint that the effects—which are inherently difficult to measure—may be real.

The gratitude journal was brief — just one sentence for each of the five things — and done only once a week, but after two months there were significant effects. Compared with a control group, the people keeping the gratitude journal were more optimistic and felt happier. They reported fewer physical problems and spent more time working out.

Further benefits were observed in a study of polio survivors and other people with neuromuscular problems. The ones who kept a gratitude journal reported feeling happier and more optimistic than those in a control group, and these reports were corroborated by observations from their spouses. These grateful people also fell asleep more quickly at night, slept longer and woke up feeling more refreshed.

So, Ariana, thanks for winking at me!!

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1 thought on “more on art appreciation, health and depression”

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