Can artists' imagination and creativity be explained through biology? Possibly. A study published in the journal NeuroImage indicates that their brains show structural differences from those of non-artists.
Researchers scanned the brains of 21 art students and 23 students in other disciplines using a method known as voxel-based morphometry.
Comparisons between the two groups revealed that the artists had increased neural matter in the areas of the brain associated with visual imagery and fine motor movements. The authors of the study point out that this does not necessarily mean that the artists' talents are innate, as training and environment play an undeniable role.
In addition to undergoing a brain scan, each of the study's participants completed specific drawing tasks, and their performance in these exercises was evaluated. The researchers noted that stronger performance in the drawing tasks was associated with increased amounts of grey and white brain matter in the brain's motor areas.
The artists' scans also showed higher quantities of grey matter in the precuneus, an area of the brain's parietal lobe that is associated with visual imagery and is thought to be involved in the ability to imagine, deconstruct and combine images.
Finally, the study contradicts the popularly held belief that artists mainly use their right brain: increased neural matter in specific areas of artists' brains was seen on both the left and the right sides.