Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Art of Healing

Over last weekend I had a great idea for a Missive and in the process of working on it I found an idea which excited me even more. It is about the research and the results of arts therapy and its benefit to health.

I have discussed before how art therapy in the form of creating artwork has helped in prisons, giving aid to the mind. An article in “Verywell Health” by Lynne Eldridge, MD, medically reviewed by Doru Paul, MD, gives evidence that art actually changes one’s brain wave patterns. It may also alter hormones and neurotransmitters which can change one’s outlook on the world.

In 2018 Canadian doctors started prescribing visits to the Montreal Museum of Arts for some patients.

Quoting from a section of the article on benefits during radiation therapy for breast cancer: “Those who participated (in art therapy) had improvements in total heath, total quality of life, physical health and psychological health. Positive benefits were seen in body image, coping with systemic (whole body) side effects of treatment, and in “future perspectives” or a sense of hope”.

A 2017 article in a Michigan State University publication by Holy Tiret states recent research shows art therapy helps in reducing pain by decreasing symptom of stress in adult cancer patients, giving them a better quality of life. This is true for children with cancer and asthma as well, improving their ability to deal with pain and other frightening symptoms.

I found an article by Devorah Lauter on Art Net about a French Neuroscientist, Pierre Lemarquis, whose recently published a book says it all in its title, “L’art Qui GuĂ©rit” (Art that Heals). He belongs to a subcategory of Neuroscience called Neuroastehtics. I think that the fact that Dr. Lemarquis is a musician might have started him off on this track, but that is just my diagnosis!

Lemarquis takes readers on an art tour through the centuries from the Paleolithic period through the 20th century looking at works through the lens of their healing powers for the viewer as well as the maker. A 2019 Health Organization report charts research on the role of the arts in the prevention of illness.

Lemarquis asserts that when we see art, we “participate” in its creation and it can lead to the feeling of rebirth. What made this clear to me was his citing a visit to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel which is so awe-inspiring. I believe that it would also be possible in the Rothko chapel in Houston, if one could be alone there. In writing that Art Heals he points out that the effect of art has been scientifically demonstrated by measuring how it acts on the brain. As it stimulates neural networks art “sculpts” and “caresses” the brain.

We have heard, and probably said ourselves, that a work of art moves us. Neuroscience has shown that this is in fact, physically, the case.

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