The Surprising Neuroscience Of Arts And Crafts

Do you enjoy arts and crafts? It seems like a simple enough hobby, but it turns out that arts and crafts are helping neuroscientists unlock secrets of the brain.

Let’s look at one such study from the National Institute of Health that really demonstrates the value of arts and crafts.

The research has established that the part of your brain responsible for creativity can’t be pinned down to a specific region. Instead, the entire brain is involved with creativity, and it leads to some interesting implications.

The study was able to show that even after significant brain trauma, creativity was unhindered. Artists who lose the ability to even speak can often continue their art. This shows that creative processes can find new ways to function, even in a significantly damaged brain.

The same research suggests that practicing any form of art can help you develop your own creativity. Your brain can be just as resilient if you regularly participate in arts and crafts.

A different study published in PLOS ONE involved research with retirees in Germany. This study looked at the differences between creating and viewing art. The researchers were specifically wondering if viewing a painting had the same impact on the brain and creativity as making the painting. 

The short answer is that there was a noticeable difference. The longer answer is that creating art is amazing for something called psychological resilience. 

How do they know that? The study used fMRI scans on participants while they were subjected to stressful situations. The fMRI scans were completed once a week for 10 weeks. Over that same period, participants either created visual art or simply viewed art for one day each week. There was also a control group that did neither.

Subsequent scans showed that after 10 weeks, those creating art had measurably higher psychological resilience. This actually lines up pretty well with the NIH study from earlier.

Combine the two studies, and you can see that arts and crafts help you develop a more resilient brain, and at the same time, you will be better able to handle stress.

But, that’s not the only way that arts and crafts can be good for your brain. A third study published at the NCBI shows that arts and crafts can help you learn, and that is true at all stages of life. Whether you want to pick up a new skill, or you are recovering from a brain injury of your own, arts and crafts might be the key to the whole process.

How does that work? According to the research, arts and crafts engage something called mirror neurons in your brain. These are stimulated by hands-on activities. When mirror neurons are active, your brain is better able to mimic actions. But, this isn’t just copying behavior. The mirror neurons help to reinforce active learning, and that can help you develop skills and retain new knowledge much faster. Because you’re doing arts and crafts, you are also engaging your sense of creativity, allowing mirror neurons across all regions of your brain to fire.

In this way, arts and crafts essentially supercharge your brain to improve your ability to learn.