Sunday, January 10, 2016

How Art Can Change Your Brain at Any Age

I suffered visual spatial processing problems my whole life, as well as slow auditory processing. As I was bright, I compensated well enough and problems were never picked up. Nevertheless, I felt dumb and my family thought I was dumb.  
In my youth, I took years of dancing, mostly jazz. In class, you learn a dance routine taught in sequential small sequences. By the end of the class, the students are joyfully dancing away, the steps learned and automatic. My brain did not translate what the teacher’s feet were doing into my feet and I had great difficulty learning even a small sequence. By the end of the class, I was still struggling to figure it out and each step took effort. Needless to say, I never made it to Broadway. 
At age 60, I became an avid painter and painted virtually daily for hours. I painted mostly from my imagination and without formal training and it would often take me months to finally get a face to look like a face, as I continually reworked the shape, mouth, nose and eyes. Six years after I started painting, I began Zumba classes. Amazingly, I picked up the steps immediately as the teacher demonstrated and danced away! No lag. No effort. All the hours spent figuring out space on a small canvas had grown loads of brain highways that rewired the visual cortex in my brain and greatly improved my visual spatial processing.  
The idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks proves false. Granted, neuroplasticity doesn’t happen overnight.  You must persist, persist, persist. 
If you like to dabble with colors, you don't have to be an artist to experience the joy of colors. Just buy one of the now popular adult coloring books.  
To see more of my paintings, check out my website.

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