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Art Therapy, Neurology, PTST, OCD
6th Jul 2011Posted in: Blog 0
Art Therapy, Neurology, PTST, OCD
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De kooning said that the goal of the painting is to make the invisible visible. Art therapy makes implicit memory explicit. There is a really interesting triangulation of data to be observed between the fields of art, psychotherapy and neurology. Painters study the brain from experience. They are accessing neurological information through the constant interplay between sensation and perception. Psychotherapy concerns itself precisely with sensation and perception. Neurology is interested in everything the brain is doing. The brain is sensing and perceiving. Hence the triangulation or convergence of data between the fields of neurology, art and psychotherapy. Art therapy announces itself as potentially very powerful for its ability to make implicit memories explicit. Of course, Freud thought that catharsis ie. the conscious expression of unconscious experience was therapeutic. There is a lot of evidence to support the validity of that hypothesis. In fact all of psychotherapy, whether cognitive, humanistic, existentialist or psychoanalytic assumes this hypothesis to be true. I believe that art therapy will eventually prove scientifically that the expression of implicit or body memories through image making is therapeutic. I believe that art therapy will eventually show itself as the primary indicated treatment for PTSD and all forms of traumatic stress disorders. I believe that art therapy has the power to re-wire the brain in such a manner that the brain areas involved in obsessive compulsive behaviour and PTSD can be re-programmed or redirected towards other, more adaptive neural networks. This means that obsessive compulsive thoughts and Post Traumic Stress Disorder ie. implicit memories could be deprogrammed through the type of visualization inherent in art therapy.  Visualization could be an important key towards re-programming neural networks ie. making maladaptive networks more adaptive. The neurologist Ramachandran has shown that phantom limb syndrome can be de-programmed through a visualization exercise where the patient imagines a false limb being stimulated.  We know that the brain can be re-wired given the correct type of stimulation. Ramachandran also showed that stimulation of a certain region of the face could cause patients to feel stimulation of the phatom limb. If i am not mistaken, that experiment confirmed and corroborated the idea that neural crosstalk occurs. Meaning that neurons which are adjacent on the homunculus communicate or crossfire. So to summarize my hypothesis is that the creative-visual processes activate regions of the brain which can be used to modulate experience. Thus through the process of art making, whether through sculpture, painting, drawing, photography or any other visual artistic medium, it is possible to rearrange neurons, send them in different directions and get them to respond differently. I am merely suggesting that art making, creative processes, critiquing of art, biofeedback inherent in art therapeutic processes can be beneficial contributions to our understanding of the human brain.  Given that the entire field of cognitive behavioural therapy is based on biofeedback, it should not be surprising that art therapy should also have a role to play in the restructuring of neural anatomy. Lifting weights builds muscles, art therapy builds networks. I will make bolder statements as i become more confident with my knowledge in this area. For now i am looking to put what i know out there and be contradicted by more knowledgeable people. Till then, this is it.

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