Any artistic expression, music, movement and art in general, has tremendous benefits in one’s life. Math in music and Arts in science. This is an interview between co-founder of Momentom Collective, Gabrielle Bonneville (@gaby_boop_) and CEO of Neurvana Clinics Corey Deacon about the impact of art on the evolution of the brain.
Gaby: What is art?
Art is everywhere and anything can be art. It’s totally in the eye of the beholder.
It can be anything, it can be dreams, dreams can technically be an art form. Dreams are the struggle of the hippocampus to understand the imagical. It’s the memory system trying to understand emotional experience through creative expression.
It’s a whole field of psychological study on dreams called Union Psychology. It’s about how the subconscious tries to talk to the conscious mind and how they struggle to understand each other.
Art is the synchrony of the two hemispheres. When you get creative insights, for instance – that is art. It is the coupling of the left and right hemispheres of your brain. The regions associated with emotional sensation, expression, experience and memory. When those three regions unite, that is the isla that makes the hippocampus.
Art, for a lot of people, is a feeling or sensation. For some people, it’s not a pleasant sensation. Especially if it’s happening on the right side of the brain, but that can lead to a lot of creative expression if we can externalize the reaction, or externalize the emotions we want to express.
Gaby: How do Art and Science intertwine?
To me, my work as a neuroscientist is art. Even though a lot of people would look at it as purely science. There’s actually a lot of art in my field in terms of viewing art or creating art.
Because creating art is the coupling of the two hemispheres of the brain, suddenly driving the body to create. We don’t know where art comes from exactly. Sometimes art is even a feedback mechanism from the brain to understand itself.
It could be dancing, circus, brain mapping and analyzing what’s going on inside someone’s brain, painting, sculpting, it could be anything. It’s a creative expression of emotional sensation coupled with an old emotional experience.
And we sometimes don’t connect to what is called “explicit memory”, so we don’t know where it comes from. Those can become the most precious pieces of art, ones that we don’t know where they came from.
Art: Alex Grey
Gaby: Where do creative insights come from?
A lot of artists don’t know where creative insights come from.
Expressing their art, they realize where it came from for them. Showing art as a mental-emotional healing for them can even be a form of Trauma Therapy whether people realize it or not.
The experience of art, which again can be experienced in all the senses. It doesn’t have to be only what we can see, it can also be in the body.
Practices like yoga, tantra, something that we smell, taste, hear, touch, and see.
Somebody else’s art can become somebody else’s healing, if the experiences overlap at all.
So if something reminds our lower limbic structures of something that happened to us in the past – whether positive or negative – we get a strong emotional or visceral sensation. If you’ve ever seen a work of art that really resonates with you, it triggers this visceral reaction in the body that is almost unforgettable. When that occurs you’re actually bringing back old emotional experiences and again, they’re sometimes coupled into explicit memory so you consciously remember or sometimes they don’t and you just feel this “deja vu” which is a very empowering feeling that works to heal us.
Gaby: Can you give us an example of how art heals us?
There’s a woman I know doing a thesis in dissertation in modern architecture.
She’s trying to move architecture in how we build building space in order to make sure it’s resonating with how our brain would normally function.
Shes’ s getting back to more ratios and angles that are associated in nature because that’s how our brains have naturally evolved. It didn’t evolve in square rooms with no windows.
So even though that is amazing, I think that just as much as art can heal, it can also cause problems within the nervous system if the brain is being retriggered by old traumatic events or the brain is improperly stimulated.
Which is why I think some of the best projects that have ever been done, using arts to heal, have been things like the communities that people with Alzheimer’s get to be a part of.
They are in protected enclosed communities but they get to leave what seems like their house everyday, walk to what seems like a supermarket and participate in this protected environment just like they normally would have if they were still at home. It has amazing effects on their emotional wellbeing compared to somebody that’s in a hospital or nursing home that’s sitting in a square room with a bed and tv. The comparison is outrageous how significant the effects are on that.
Again, this is how architecture or community design can be used creatively to drive our limbic system function which drives our conscious expression and our conscious experience.
Gaby: Do you see the difference between people who take time to either express art in their brain? In their emotional body? How can you tell?
If someone does art, it basically tells me that they are willing and open to do the work they need to learn about themselves.
As soon as you have that intention, everything can be art, like we said. As soon as you have that intention, you start paying attention to your reality and what’s going on around you and what’s being expressed around you. Then, you also start noticing your reactions to what is expressed around you. That really is the art of healing.
In comparison to the science of healing, which is giving someone a drug, a supplement.
The art of healing is giving them an experience and allowing them to figure out what that experience or feeling means to them and how it can help to heal them. It’s massive.
Gaby: Can Art and Science coexist in medicine?
I personally think there’s a place for both but we have looked at healing for the last 150 years as more science and we have lost the art side.
People’s intuitions have been squashed, they feel like something is not right, out of balance, out of resonance in their body. They go to their doctor and he tells them “you’re fine, it’s all in your head.”
Well, it kinda is all in your head, it’s your brain experiencing or perceiving reality properly.
And Intuition, basically the creative healer, is shut down by modern medicine.
So breaking out of that, understanding you have this arch of healing within yourself is the number one thing people need to shift in order to heal. As I said before “Everything is art and everything is a feedback mechanism that’s going to help you heal.”
Even if it’s perceived as “bad” or “negative”. Sometimes those unpleasant responses can teach us the most about ourselves.
The positive experiences are great, they’re happy, they’re joyful, we get a release of dopamine, we feel pleasure.
They don’t tend to shift the brain quite as much because the brain doesn’t really want to change, it just wants more of that, and of what it is.. But when we see the negative sides of ourselves, and the sides we are disowning and not wanting to accept, we can then learn to own ourselves and love ourselves.
That’s when healing happens and that’s when we learn about why we have those reactions happen. Why are we pulled one way and not the other? It’s almost always based on either old things that have happened to us in the past or things that have been experienced by ancestors. This used to be considered hokey and is now proven by research.
Art: Alex Grey
Gaby: How can we have our patterns based on our ancestors?
Psychiatrist have found methylation patterns in the hippocampus’ of people who are of 3-4 generations following the holocaust.
They have altered methylation epigenetic patterns in their hippocampus, compared to normal samples of people who didn’t come from significant trauma like that.
But we’re talking about four generations, these people probably didn’t even know the person in their family that had the trauma but are still having signs that there’s memory imprinting there.
So, this is really interesting too, and it’s also what a lot of people do when they start learning about themselves, they want to know where they came from. It is actually important because it helps us figure out what is our “stuff” and what isn’t. Sometimes when stuff is not healed, it carries on to the following generations.
A book I highly recommend on the topic is by Mark Wolynn called “It Didn’t Start With You” he talks all about his experience working with intergenerational trauma.
The way I see art, is a way of creating aspects of yourself that might be dormant or you may be shying away from. In fact, art is stepping into infinite possibilities- you can become whoever you want. If you’re able to access that creative force, building the courage to express it and be observed. I think that when we talk about intergenerational trauma and epigenetics, we are saying “We are the outcome of the past and art is where we want to be.”
The future we want to become. The choice we have with our creative energy. I really resonate with what you’re saying, in a way its like if there’s things we can’t access, like someone in our family being in the holocaust.
Art creates the ability to transmute that energy into something new and consciously choose how we want to express it without putting borders or limitations on what it should be. Just allowing it to be whatever it is. It’s still transmuting energy into something new. I feel like without going too far, art is healing for our future generation.
Healing ourselves is healing for the future.
The more we heal our stuff, the less future generations will have to heal.
So the other thing is we have, when we express artistic forms of creation we get feedback from when we observe ourselves but we also get feedback from others who observe it.
All the sudden you’re reminded ‘oh man’ and sometimes helping our brain make connections needed to heal something.
So yeah, free flowing, perfectly creative with no judgement and no ego hijacking or manipulating it going “oh I shouldn’t do that” or “I would do that, if I could”.
We make up a ton of excuses and I think we can recognize that our brain does that to try to keep us in a comfort zone because that’s where we are safe. As a survival mechanism we can recognize those excuses, break them down, then go do it anyway. That’s where we can get that creative expression. We talk about flow state, that’s how you get into flow state.
Gaby: Can you elaborate on flow states?
Flow state would be a perfectly creative expression not impeded by ego.
Ego is basically that piece that’s like, it’s fearful of what other people think. It creates excuses.
We have over 100,000 thoughts a day, mostly being ego. Where we are making a judgement on something or saying we should, could, would, or shouldn’t do something. That’s ego.
We tend to get stuck in these states doing the same thing over and over again because we become fearful if we do go outside of that, something bad is going to happen. All that is, is a protective system in our brain called the limbic system. It’s there to make sure we survive and stay safe but we need to understand its limitations. When it is needed and when it isn’t.
There has to be a unique balance there that is different for everyone around. Where we still need to let that limbic system express itself but to show it there aren’t always things to be afraid of and new ways can exist.
With flow states, it’s not something you can stay in all the time but can tap into learning to sustain for longer and longer periods of time.
Where you don’t let ego interrupt, when it comes up you acknowledge it and move forward with expression anyways. That’s flow state.
Gaby: How can we stay in flow state?
You can do it in all sorts of ways.
I think if you look at the great artists of all time and people with the most creative expression, they get into a flow state well. They either accept ego and move through it anyways or they get into those states and produce amazing works of art almost constantly.
You see then, meditation as an art form, you see expert meditators and published research of what they are able to do with their brainwaves. Things that I’ve never seen anyone be able to do before. Their ability to shift consciously by tapping into a flow state is amazing.
Getting into flow state is about breaking down the excuses and barriers ego puts up while at the same time just feeling free to express. If you don’t feel free to express, then understanding why you don’t feel free to express and also understanding why it is okay to express then doing it anyways.
This is almost a form of Exposure Therapy, in a way exposing yourself to things you are deeply terrified of to show yourself it’s okay. To show the limbic system we can experience this and still be safe.
Gaby: What is your definition of intelligence?
That is a really difficult one because you can’t really define intelligence, there’s so many types. I think there’s one intelligence that can be measured and that’s your traditional IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test. All that really is, is your intellect.
Gaby: Which is what?
Your ability to spatially reason, to verbally reason, to grammatically reason,and to solve certain problems that are more logical in nature. There is definitely a connection with high IQ and other forms of intelligence.
Creative intelligence does overlap with that.
Ex: Einstein saw through linear thought. The higher the IQ the less linear thought you have.
Gaby: You don’t have linear thought?
It’s much easier to transcend linear thought.
Gaby: What does that mean?
Linear thought is the idea of the world being made of parts like a machine. So viewing the human body as a machine, for instance, is really easy to do.
Break it up into its parts looking at all its parts but not looking at how it functions collectively.
Not understanding that things may be quantum in nature and that has an affect on the mind, body and consciousness. So, I could not give you a definition on intelligence. There’s emotional intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, creative intelligence, it’s endless and you could build a list that’s a hundred phrases long of the different intelligence you can come up with.
There’s really no definition of intelligence, I think if you’re conscious, you’re intelligent. I think a bacterium that can sense its environment and react based on its environment and change its behavior is intelligent.
A tree that can grow, tell where it needs to extend its leaves to get sun and knowing where not to extend because it wont get sun, is intelligent. I think intelligence is on every living level so I don’t think I can give you a definition.
How about this, we say Intelligence is a synonym of consciousness.
How does that sound? Intelligence is consciousness.
Consciousness is not created in the brain, consciousness is materialized in the brain.
We’ve never been able to isolate consciousness in the brain.
Gaby: So where do you think consciousness comes from?
No clue but I also know that we are extremely limited to understanding what might be in the spiritual realm subject to the interpretation. What is it? We don’t know. Can we even prove people are experiencing it? That’s a different question.
Gaby: You’ve had experiences in that you were connected to a spiritual realm, no?
Yes but is that just because I’m in alignment with myself? Because my brain has created a way to understand life and afterlife and it needs a way to understand in a way described by the senses? When I have crazy trips and see things, I wonder if it is a spiritual realm or something my brain has created to try to understand my reality?
Gaby: Are you saying it is an extension of our reality?
One way to explain it. The brains struggle to explain what we are experiencing.
Gaby: Then an extension of the brain processes?
Yes, as if these things to see are always there. They are measurable in the brain but where it comes from is of course a different question and that is not measurable.
Gaby: Maybe the spiritual realm is where we stop being able to describe things?
I can get on board with that. Where it’s like there’s so much Quantum Entanglement with our minds, we couldn’t possibly understand or process that.
Gaby: What is Quantum Entanglement?
Quantum Entanglement means we could literally be tangled with another being in another dimension going on at the same time and be intimately connected to them. That when something happens to them, it happens to us.
There are experiments that have been done, pulling an electron apart from an electron, or splitting them then pulling the halves apart. You’ll go to tickle this one and that one gets tickled. Or you go to tickle that one and it already knows. This one knows it’s going to be tickled before it even is because time doesn’t exist in the quantum world either.That’s legitimate tangible science.
Gaby: To what degree does that consider the spiritual realm?
So that’s where the spiritual realm gets tricky, now you have to imagine there’s a being that is participating in all the infinite amount of dimensions out there but we can only see this one.
That’s what I was trying to tell you, in my experience growing up where there was more than one reality happening at the same time. It would be like if I focus my attention on this one, I will live this one. I knew if I shifted my focus just slightly somewhere else I would be living something completely different.
Then when I started looking more into the quantum field, I can’t describe it but I do feel like I understand it in my own way. It’s just like why are we conscious of this dimension when all these other dimensions are happening at the same time? Is that conscious awareness?
Can we be conscious of more than one reality?
Right. Well that’s the question, I think otherwise there’s too much noise, otherwise it’s nothing and it’s everything. Then you can’t experience it because you’re experiencing everything all at once, right? I guess we are to a degree, but this is just the average. Like zed scores, this is the most solid average of everything going on.
This is what’s created based on our conscious intent. Then it also becomes okay. What’s ego and what’s spirit?
Medical Director of Neurvana Naturopathic Medicine
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