From the past several weeks, one of the main messages I have taken from this course was how much the world around us is interconnected to us and influences us in more ways than we may be conscious of. I decided to look into ways art or beauty around us is connected to psychology or neuroscience. Since psychology/neuroscience is quite similar to my major, cognitive science, and it is already something I am interested in, I wanted to head in that direction in terms of connecting art to biotechnology.
For my final paper topic, I decided to study and research a field called neuroaesthetics. Neuroaesthetics is a growing field with a focus on studying the intersection between psychological aesthetics, biological mechanisms, and human evolution. My greatest interest in this area of research is learning about how music, art, dance, etc. can play a role in treating neurological/psychological disorders and thus improve people's lives. This field understands that art or otherwise known as aesthetic experiences is very tightly ingrained into our DNA as a vital part of our humanity as a whole. Therefore, it naturally contributes to people's mental well-being, learning, and health. With this paper, I want to explore all the ways neuroaesthetics can bring the connections of art, brain sciences, and technology together.
For example, we now know that art was already a part of our evolutionary past and served as a way for us to survive as a species. Through basic elements, such as reward, fear, and pleasure, this human drive to create art as a way of expression and communication is even encoded into our genetic makeup from way in our past. With this research, we can readily find real-life applications to drastically improve the lives of others. Some examples are for healing soldiers and veterans through the use of art therapy for combat trauma and PTSD. It has been shown that oftentimes trauma and PTSD can disrupt the Broca's Area of the brain which is responsible for speech production which makes it difficult for them to vocalize their experiences and express themselves.
Additionally, I want to explore the ways art and music can be used to help with learning. As someone who grew up playing music and instruments, I am interested in studying the ways creating and practicing music can help develop cognitive development and be used as a tool to improve learning.
Overall, through neuroaesthetics, there are broadly two directions I want to explore. The first is seeing how it can be used to heal those who are struggling with disorders, like Parkinson's or trauma; and the second is seeing how it can be used to better aid cognitive functions and development. I'd also want to address any common misconceptions people may have, like how classical music is good for the brain, in order to differentiate what is supported by research or is just a common thing told.
Penttila, Nicky. “Your Aesthetic Brain: A Growing Case for the Arts.” Dana Foundation, Dana Foundation, 8 May 2020, dana.org/article/your-aesthetic-brain-a-growing-case-for-the-arts/.