Brain scans revealed artistic talent could be innate

Brain scans revealed artistic talent could be innate

Brain scans revealed artistic talent could be innate

Have you ever heard people say that they tend to be more of a right-brain or left-brain thinker? From books to television programs, you’ve probably heard the phrase mentioned numerous times or perhaps you’ve even taken an online test to determine which type best describes you. Turns out we’re neither; new research shows we should be looking at the size of our neural matter instead.

The research, published in NeuroImage on March 29th, 2014, suggests that artistic talent could be innate. Researchers reported that training and environmental upbringing also play crucial roles in their ability.

The research finds greater neural matter among visual artists in areas related to fine motor movements and visual imagery.  ”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,” explained one of the lead scientists, Rebecca Chamberlain from KU Leuven, Belgium.

The study itself was somewhat limited, though it complements a growing body of evidence that artistic brains are different.  Chamberlain and associates compared the brains of 21 visual artists with 23 otherwise non-artistic individuals, employing a scanning method called voxel-based morphometry.

These detailed scans revealed that the artist group had significantly larger amount of gray matter in an area of the brain called the precuneus in the parietal lobe. “This region 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,” Chamberlain said.

Participants were also asked to complete drawing tasks, which were examined by the team – who looked at the relationship between their performance in this task and their gray and white matter.  The participants who were better at drawing had increased grey and white matter in the cerebellum and also in the supplementary motor area. Both areas are involved with fine motor control and performance of routine actions. Grey matter is mainly made up of nerve cells, while white matter controls communication between the grey matter regions.

Despite the discovery, it is still not clear what the increase in neural matter might mean. Chamberlain said that these individuals have enhanced processing in these areas, based on other studies of other creative people. “It falls into line with evidence that focus of expertise really does change the brain. The brain is incredibly flexible in response to training and there are huge individual differences that we are only beginning to tap into.” Chamberlain said.

The study cannot confirm whether this extra matter is an innate gift, but it does suggest the artist’s environment or upbringing plays a part in developing these creative spaces.

“We would need to do further studies where we look at teenagers and see how they develop in their drawing as they grow older – but I think [this study] has given us a handle on how we could begin to look at this.” explained another author of the paper, Chris McManus from University College London.

As Chamberlain said “The brain is incredibly flexible in response to training”, so start training your brain now!