The artist emerges

Visual art learning alters neural structure and function

Ming Menga, Peter U. Tsea, Peter J. Kohlera, Zhengang Lua, Xueting Liab, Sergey V. Fogelsona, Prescott Alexandera, Alexander Schlegela, and Enrico Rileyc

How does the brain mediate visual artistic creativity? Here we studied behavioral and neural changes in drawing and painting students compared to students who did not study art. We investigated three aspects of cognition vital to many visual artists: creative cognition, perception, and perception-to-action. We found that the art students became more creative via the reorganization of prefrontal white matter but did not find any significant changes in perceptual ability or related neural activity in the art students relative to the control group. Moreover, the art students improved in their ability to sketch human figures from observation, and multivariate patterns of cortical and cerebellar activity evoked by this drawing task became increasingly separable between art and non-art students. Our findings suggest that the emergence of visual artistic skills is supported by plasticity in neural pathways that enable creative cognition and mediate perceptuomotor integration.

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