The ‘Joy Mode’: Texas Tech Studies the Effects of the Arts on Healing

He called it the “joy mode.”

During a press trip to Lubbock, Texas, last month, I had the opportunity to interview Dean Noel Zahler of Texas Tech University’s J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts about 16 multi-disciplinary research groups who are using fMRI to measure the effects of the arts on healing. It’s an important project and a topic dear to my heart.

The studies being conducted are finding correlations between the arts—dance, theatre, visual art, music—and results in healing. Reactions to the arts, the “results” are showing positive effects for Autism, Alzheimer’s, Aphasia, Stroke, movement disorders, and to a certain extent, cancer.

In one story Zahler relayed, a music professor had a student who was already a skilled musician. The teacher asked the student to play a piece with the mindset that what he was doing was the most joyous activity imaginable. A brain scan was taken before and after regular play—and then again before and after the musician played in the joy mode. The results showed an improvement in the musician’s performance, but also in his brain activity for pleasure and well-being.

Even more intriguing is when they had a layman listen to this same musician both during regular play and while in the joy mode. The fMRI results for the recipient were the same as for the performer.

The intention of the musician affected the happiness of the listener.

It thrills me to see science authenticating that our intentions (and state of mind) affect our health—and thus, reality. I’ll be writing a full story about the studies underway; but in the meantime, read Evolving Magazine’s October “Energy” edition for more about the topic of energy.

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