Doodling, coloring and drawing trigger brain’s reward pathways

Doodling, coloring and drawing trigger brain’s reward pathways

Is your mood as cloudy as the weather? Well, you might draw a lesson from a fidgety 10-year-old doodling during class. A team of researchers at Drexel University recently found that drawing, coloring and doodling activated reward pathways in the brain. Doodling had the biggest effect.

The findings, published in The Arts in Psychotherapy, suggest that art activity evokes feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, something a 10-year-old might have told you right off. And that has possible implications for warding off depression or simply boosting self-confidence in problem solving.

Researchers recruited study participants ages 20 to 60, artists and non-artists alike. The participants colored, doodled and drew during three-minute sessions, followed by rest periods. Blood flow in their brains’ prefrontal cortex was measured by near-infrared spectroscopy. Researchers saw greater blood flow, or activation, in the brains’ reward pathways during the art activity compared with rest periods.

The small study also found participants felt like the activities got the creative juices flowing by enhancing their ability to solve problems and generate ideas.

The findings may seem like a no-brainer; many already know art is fun. But the possible implications of the findings are significant, though researchers acknowledge more study is needed before making any conclusions. Beyond just making you feel better, researchers believe these art activities could replace harmful triggers of our reward pathways associated with addictive behaviors or even offset the effects of eating and mood disorders.

So, doodle away. But be mindful: Don’t let your boss or teacher catch you.

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