Scientists work with artists to learn more about the brain

NewsBrief by Jessica Newfield

           Researchers from the University of Houston recently reported findings analyzing brain activity in freely behaving participants, outside of the lab. This is particularly of interest, because it puts neuroscience research out in the real-world, and can directly apply the findings to people’s lives. The researchers analyzed people’s brain activity as they walked through a museum, and the published data found increases in task-related connectivity in specific brain networks while people were viewing art. The most important application of the research conducted is the possible future contribution to the growing area of research in an uncontrolled setting. The researchers found that they could predict with 55% accuracy whether or not a participant was viewing art or a blank wall.


The findings could also potentially provide information to museums designers to better understand how people’s brains are activated when they visit a museum, and which pieces of art are most commonly preferred. Furthermore, identifying the specific neural pathways that are provoked by exposure to art may contribute to constructing how art therapy be delivered.


Jose L. Contreras-Vidal et al. ‘Your Brain on Art’: Emergent cortical dynamics during aesthetic experiences. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, November 2015 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00626