Artists' brains are structurally different, study finds

Aug 7, 2014

Do artists have different brains than the rest of us? Or do our brains change when we do art regularly?

A study published last week in the journal NeuroImage confirms that artists do indeed have different brains -- and regular art practice can permanently change our brain structures.

Researchers took extremely detailed pictures of 21 artists’ and 23 non-artists’ brains and found key differences in a region associated with fine motor control and memory. The study was small, but the results were statistically significant and confirmed other research on the brains of artists.

"This region is involved in a range of functions but potentially in things that could be linked to creativity,” Dr. Rebecca Chamberlain, chief researcher on the project, told BBC's Inside Science program. “Like visual imagery, being able to manipulate visual images in your brain, combine them and deconstruct them.”

Scientists are just beginning to study the significance of our unique brain signatures. The now infamous robbery of Albert Einstein’s brain revealed that his genius was mirrored in an “extraordinary” brain: an extra thick corpus callosum, a huge prefrontal cortex, and a high ratio of glial cells. All good things if you want to conceptualize space, problem solve, and come up with innovative answers. Albert Einstein was also an artist; he was known to play violin when he couldn’t figure out a problem.

In case the stress-relief effect of arts didn’t get you to pick up a paint brush or knitting needles, perhaps you’ll be inspired with the knowledge that we can physically alter the structure of our brains with regular and long-term art practice.

How are you changing your brain today?