Art and How it Benefits the Brain

By Grant Eckert

Art and How it Benefits the Brain: Many people question the purpose of art. They acknowledge an aesthetic approach but ignore any possible positive benefits of a more practical nature. Contrary to popular belief, art is not purely aesthetic. It is not a product with no possible effects outside of the obvious – an “artistic” product. Art is not of less use than science in preparing individuals for the “real” world. In fact, the contrary is true. Art is very important in helping the brain reach its full potential.

How does art accomplish this? It introduces the brain to diverse cognitive skills that help us unravel intricate problems. Art activates the creative part of our brain – the part that works without words and can only express itself non-verbally. Art, in thought and through the creative processes, activates the imaginative and creative side, the spatial and intuitive side of our brain. Art jumps over the process of linear and logical thinking. It trains the brain to shift into thinking differently, of broaching old problems in new ways.

This is what makes art so important. It benefits the brain by training it to think outside the box. It helps children understand concepts with greater ease. It aids children in getting better grades. In the real world, the artistic side of the brain helps engineers solve problems. It guides individuals to cerate solutions. Art is the property of fine artists; it is also the product of engineers, technicians and computer designers. Art, in many different ways, helps people make the world a better place.

There have been copious studies on the relationship between art and its benefits to the brain. Semir Zeki, a former professor of neurobiology at the University College, London and co-head of the Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, published an article, “Artistic Creativity and the Brain,” in Science Magazine, in July 2001. Zeki detailed the relationship between the development of cognitive abilities and the creative process. He stated artistic expression is the key to comprehending ourselves. He also considered art and its expression as an expansion of brain function. In other words, art helps the brain in its search for knowledge.

Teachers apply this in the classroom, helping children improve their cognitive capabilities and stretch their ability to solve difficult problems. Professional therapists have also embraced art as another tool in their arsenal of leading the brain-weary back to health. In fact, several psychiatrists and psychologists highly recommend this form of treatment. Furthermore, training is now in place to ensure the standards remain high in this developing field.

Art therapy is now a common means of helping individuals to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being. It bases its approach on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people in a number of different positive ways. It facilitates them in ending or finding a solution to various conflicts and problems. Art also aids them to manage their behavior, develop interpersonal skills, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, lessen stress and attain insight.

Professionals use art therapy with children, adults and teens, individuals and groups. It is employed regardless of age or gender. Combining the areas of human development, visual arts such as painting, drawing and sculpture, and the creative process with the various models of counseling and psychotherapy, art therapy assesses and treats the following mental problems and disorders: anxiety, depression, mental illness, substance abuse and other addictions. Art therapists address family and relationship issues, abuse and domestic violence and social and emotional difficulties related to disability and illness. Art therapy is applicable in situations of trauma and loss, physical, cognitive, and neurological problems and psychosocial difficulties related to medical illness.

So what are the benefits of art on the brain? When individuals create art and reflect on it, the processes, increase self-awareness, initiate awareness of others and help people cope with stress, and traumatic experiences. Art enhances cognitive abilities and provides individuals with the ability to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.


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Professional Wingsuit Flyer Soaring Above Mountains…

We’re pretty sure this video will make you reevaluate your current career. How can you top flying?

Take a look as Jeb Corliss literally soars above mountains and, and some points, comes within a few feet of the ground before leaping back up again.

The key to Corliss’s flight? A special body suit first used in the 1930′s.The Wingsuit, or flying squirel suit, adds fabric between the legs and arms which allows the flyer to coast similar to a bird.

Because the flyers use declining altitude to glide from point to point, each suit contains a parachute for the final landing.

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Will computers ever be smarter than us?

Will computers ever be smarter than us?
Published Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011 4:32PM EDT
Report on Business magazine: The September issue

Moore’s Law is generating a lot of animated discussion these days. Described first in a 1965 paper written by Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore, the axiom predicts that the number of transistors that can be squeezed onto a computer’s integrated circuit board doubles every two years or so. Moore said that computing power would expand at that pace for a decade.

He was right and then some. Moore’s Law has held true in chip manufacture for 45 years. The newest models at Intel (INTC-Q20.13-0.11-0.54%) , IBM (iBM-N) and Qualcomm (QCOM-Q51.460.220.43%) , in fact, are threatening to blow past Moore’s Law, with size and power improvements that exceed even the blistering pace he predicted. Among the latest doodads: a 3-D chip unveiled by Intel in May that has conducting channels that stick up slightly, allowing electrons to move up and down, as well as left and right.

Yet silicon is a physical thing, governed by physical laws. At some point, when transistors have shrunk to the size of atoms, it will be impossible to make them any smaller. That physical limit suggests that the growth rate of computing power will slow and hit the wall. Depending on which theorist you ask, Moore’s Law will likely hit its expiry date between 2015 and 2020.

Should we care? Absolutely, argues Michio Kaku in his latest book, The Physics of the Future. An esteemed American physicist and co-founder of string field theory, Kaku writes that our future economic prosperity will pivot on the discovery of a suitable replacement for silicon. This is where much of the recent animated discussion comes from. It’s focused on new research out of Cavendish Laboratories, the department of physics at Cambridge University. A study published in July provided new insights into “spintronics,” a potentially revolutionary new way of transferring information. Conventional electronics rely on harnessing the charge of electrons. Spintronics depends, instead, on manipulating an electron’s spin, and transforming it into a so-called spin current, which can then be used to store and transfer information in a way that generates little or no heat.

Obstacles remain, including harnessing enough spin current to meet the electricity requirements of existing computers and devices. There’s also work to be done to integrate spin current with existing semiconductor technology. Still, the idea is intriguing and would, if commercialized, offer a way of climbing back on Moore’s exponential growth curve even after reaching silicon’s limits.

Of course, if the idea of computers operating without electricity or batteries seems like science fiction, it’s nothing compared to what some theorists foresee if computing power keeps growing exponentially for decades. One concern is that we will develop computers that are more intelligent than humans. This is called “technological singularity,” where we pass a point beyond which the future may become impossible to understand.

Supercomputers could enable an “intelligence explosion,” says futurist Ray Kurzweil. Once those computers learn to evolve, they may choose a future not at all to our liking—cyborgs and all. As artificial intelligence theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky memorably put it: “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.”

Perhaps our best hope is that 25-year Silicon Valley veteran Martin Ford is right. In his book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future, Ford predicts a “technology paradox” that might precede singularity: So many jobs in the economy are automated that consumer demand plummets, destroying the incentive to invest in the technologies necessary to bring the singularity about.

Not a great outcome, but better than choosing between technological stagnation via Moore’s expiry or potential human extinction via its continuance.

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