Approaches to the neuropsychology of art
Introduction Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, with the establishment of a correlation between language functions and brain regions within the left cerebral hemisphere, there has been a trend in neuropsychology to link specific cognitions with discrete regions of the brain. This has largely been accomplished through studies of fractionated behavior following acquired brain injury in neurological patients. The location of the damage, together with the consequent behavioral breakdown, opened windows on mind-brain associations involving language, perception, memory, motor skills, personality, and what are generally considered to be higher cognitive functions. The components of behavior have to be defined in order to make such associations. The association between art and brain, however, has proven difficult because its components are elusive. What abilities of Michelangelo's mind went into painting the Sistine Chapel or sculpting Moses or the Pieta? What in Monet's mind controlled his water lily paintings, or in Gauguin's his Ancestors ofTehamana painting, or, in ancient artists, the cave walls at Lascaux and Altamira? Similarly, what were the components of Verdi's mind when he composed Aida? And what brain mechanisms were at work in the great plays, poems, literature, and ballets that continually remain sources of attraction and fascination? The answers to some of these challenging questions can be explored with the perspectives of neuropsychology.