What part of the brain controls artistic ability?

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’What part of the brain controls artistic ability?’’ We will show you how creativity takes place in the brain, what are the areas in charge and the impact of art on the brain.

What part of the brain controls artistic ability?

The right hemisfere controls artistic ability.

The human brain is made up of two halves or hemispheres, the left and the right. Although both halves are connected to each other, there are certain differences between people who develop one hemisphere more than the other.

Thus, imagination and creativity are usually characteristics of people who develop their right hemisphere more; while logic or mathematics are the specialty of those who use their left hemisphere more.

The right hemisphere has a way of elaborating and processing information different from the left. It is an integrating hemisphere, specialized in sensations, feelings and special visual and sound abilities, such as music or art, but not verbal.

It integrates various types of information (sounds, images, smells, sensations) and transmits them as a whole. In it are located the perception or spatial orientation, the ability to capture or express emotions or control the non-verbal aspects of communication.

It is also related to intuition or the memory of faces, voices, or sounds. This part of the brain thinks and remembers in images, so people who have more developed this part of the brain remember, learn and even study visually.

Activities such as drawing, daydreaming, reading, meditation, physical exercise, music, or journaling are more common among people who use the right hemisphere of their brain more.

They are usually very imaginative and creative people; between which musicians, artists or inventors would fit.

Advances in neuroscience have illuminated aspects of the human being until then reserved for mere speculation: consciousness, thought, emotions.

Creativity is undoubtedly one of them, since there are few things more properly human than our ability to invent or illuminate imperishable works. Something that has much more to do with the neural connections and plasticity of the brain than with the influence of the muses or “inspiration”.

The right hemisphere has traditionally been associated with the artistic, while the left hemisphere is considered to be more analytical, involved in aspects such as mathematics and verbal language.

Although many atrocities have been said about what each of the hemispheres do, the truth is that both brain structures do differ in terms of their characteristics and functions.

As we have already mentioned, both hemispheres are separated by the interhemispheric fissure, also called the longitudinal cerebral fissure. In the deepest part of this fissure is the corpus callosum, a structure of nerve fibers which connects both hemispheres.

Since both hemispheres need to share information with each other constantly, the corpus callosum is a structure that performs a great function.

Right hemisphere characteristics

Although structurally similar to the left hemisphere, the right hemisphere has different characteristics. The left hemisphere is considered the most analytical, while the right is attributed more creative characteristics. Next we will see in more detail which are the most representative characteristics of the right hemisphere of the brain:

1. Musical

Playing an instrument, identifying precisely what note is being heard, or quickly learning the rhythmicity of a melody are all aspects of the right hemisphere.

2. Synthetic

That the right hemisphere has synthetic processing means that it allows to postulate hypotheses and propose ideas, with the intention of contrasting them, seeing if they are true or not, and if they are not, proposing new ones.

The generation of new thoughts does not necessarily have to be linked to the veracity of a fact. You can come up with something new simply with the intention of being original.

3. Non-verbal

To say that the right hemisphere is a structure that is not involved in language is not entirely true. This human capacity involves various brain areas, some of them being on the right side. However, verbal aspects such as speech and literacy are more typical of the left hemisphere.

In the right hemisphere there is the ability to analyze non-verbalized aspects of language, such as facial gestures.

4. Holistic

The proper processing of the right hemisphere is to adopt a broad view of a problem, instead of choosing to carefully analyze each of the details that make it up.

Thus, it analyzes a specific stimulus in an integrated and global way. For this reason, the right hemisphere is the structure that is behind, mostly, in artistic and innovative processes.

5. Geometric-spatial

Although last but not least, the geometric and spatial abilities of the right hemisphere represent the most remarkable cognitive abilities of this structure.

Thanks to this, it is possible to order the space, generate mental images or build geometric structures.

The effect of art on our brain

That art has a profound impact on people is undeniable. It may simply attract us in a superficial way, but it also has a strong power as a stimulus to attract some memory from our memory to our focus of consciousness. 

Everyone’s reactions are different. They can take us to the past or to very remote places, but their ability to have an effect on us is unquestionable. We are going to talk about the effect of art on our brain.

Our brain is able to recognize the shapes of a painting, its lines and shadows, immediately. Our brains try to recognize faces in almost everything we see. This tendency is because the brain is used to seeking familiarity with objects based on patterns or shapes, even when the information is incomplete.

When we are faced with artistic production, our brain works to give shape and meaning to the information that comes to us. That is, we have an innate ability to organize shapes and patterns in ways that make sense.

Regardless of this ability, we now also know that the effect of art on our brain is similar to that of looking at a loved one: it increases blood flow to the brain by up to 10%.

Embodied cognition

Another tendency that the brain has is to want to be “inside” the picture. Mirror neurons convert the images in the painting into real emotions. That is embodied cognition.

The more the work is analyzed, the more inside our brain will be, which will “translate” the message of the painting into human emotions. That is why viewing a desert landscape can produce a sensation of the sun touching the skin or even heat.

Brain chemistry

In a series of pioneering brain mapping experiments, Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at University College London, examined the brains of the volunteers while looking at 28 images.

They found that the same part of the brain that gets excited when you fall in love with someone is stimulated when you look at great works of art or images of great beauty. Viewing art triggers a sudden surge in the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, producing feelings of intense pleasure.

Dopamine and the orbitofrontal cortex are known to be involved in desire and affect, which evoke pleasant feelings in the brain. It is a powerful effect often associated with romantic love and recreational drug use.

Creating art

If the simple act of looking at art produces these kinds of responses in the brain, getting involved in the creative process goes much further. Creating art, in any of its forms, revitalizes the brain in ways that are distinguished from simply observing it.

Studies have associated an effect of art in our brain related to increases in functional connectivity in the brain, along with enhanced activation of the visual cortex. 

Researchers compare creating art to exercise for the brain and even suggest that, similar to how physical exercise helps the body, creating art can help keep the mind sharp and clear in old age.

Even your own artistic creation helps to face stressful and difficult situations that arise in our daily lives. You don’t need to be a recognized artist to create art. On the contrary, the creative process without expectations is the way to fully enjoy it.

Creativity and the brain

Dr. Charles Limb, Chief of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, was one of the first scientists to examine what happens in the brain during creativity.

He conceived an fMRI study to monitor the brains of professional jazz musicians as they transition from playing a well-known piece of music, to the freedom of creative improvisation.

The scans showed two major changes in the brain. The area in the front of the brain (prefrontal cortex) where self-control and self-criticism occur is inoperative. And the area just behind it (middle prefrontal cortex), which is responsible for memory and emotions, is activated.

According to a study by Dr. Charles Limb, brain activity changes dramatically when we engage in creative activities. The area in the front of the brain (prefrontal cortex) where self-control and self-criticism occur is inoperative. And the area just behind it (middle prefrontal cortex), which is responsible for memory and emotions, is activated.

For artists, and for all those who wish to enrich their lives with creativity, one of the key questions the studio raised was: How do you suppress internal criticism in order to enter the creative space?

The scientific answer, like the catch phrase to that old Carnegie Hall joke, seems to be practical, practical, practical.

That’s what another study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found. The researchers found that the prefrontal cortex becomes inactive in direct proportion to an artist’s level of experience. In other words, the higher the level, the more you can let go and stand out.

That release from self-censorship and the accompanying activation of the medial prefrontal cortex, with its connection to personal memory, could shed some light on the “dark side” of creative freedom (think of what is known as “the tortured artist ”). Difficult emotions are often part of the process.

“When you’re an artist, a lot comes from the unconscious, and in the unconscious there can be a lot of pain,” says Einfinger. “That takes courage.”

Although he is a skilled physician, Limb’s own personal experience as a musician also helps him explain why art can be one of the most satisfying aspects of life.

“I think I understand almost any human experience better – love, pain, suffering, happiness, joy, ecstasy – because of music,” he says. “I never felt that anything came as close as music to beautifying and understanding the world.”

FAQS: What part of the brain controls artistic ability?

What lobe of the brain controls creativity?

The frontal cortex.

What part of the brain does creativity come from?

The right brain hemisphere is credited with spatial and visual abilities (for example, the ability to imagine figures and shapes within), creativity, emotions, the ability to synthesize, and artistic talent.

How is the brain associated with art?

Studies have associated an effect of art in our brain related to increases in functional connectivity in the brain, along with enhanced activation of the visual cortex.

What part of the brain controls memory?

The temporal lobes are located behind the eyes, below the temples, and will hold our short and long term memory.

What part of the brain controls long term memory?

To save the memories that belong to the long-term memory the hippocampus will work with them.

In this post we answered the question ‘’What part of the brain controls artistic ability?’’ We have shown you how creativity takes place in the brain, what are the areas in charge and the impact of art on the brain.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Zeki, S. (n.d.). Art and the Brain. Retrieved from http://www.vislab.ucl.ac.uk/pdf/Daedalus.pdf

‌Shi, B., Cao, X., Chen, Q., Zhuang, K., & Qiu, J. (2017). Different brain structures associated with artistic and scientific creativity: a voxel-based morphometry study. Scientific Reports, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep42911