FLICRK, DIERK SCHAEFERArtists have more neural matter in areas of the brain that mediate the control of fine motor movements and the interpretation of visual imagery, according to a study that used brain scans to compare 21 art students to 23 non-artists, published last month (March 29) in NeuroImage.
“The people who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory,” lead author Rebecca Chamberlain from KU Leuven in Belgium told BBC News. Specifically, the precuneus in the parietal lobe, one area where artists had more gray matter, “is involved in a range of functions but potentially in things that could be linked to creativity, like visual imagery—being able to manipulate visual images in your brain, combine them and deconstruct them,” said Chamberlain. The researchers also found that participants with better drawing skills had greater gray and white matter in the cerebellum and in the supplementary motor area, brain regions that help control fine motor skills and routine movements.
Moreover, the brain scans revealed that such differences in neural matter could be seen on both sides of the artists’ brains. “[The research should help] put to rest the facile claims that artists use [only] the right side of their brain,” Ellen Winner of Boston College, who was not involved in the research, told the BBC.
For more on how the brain helps us create and interpret art, check out next month’s feature on neuroaesthetics.