What impact do art and the natural environment have on wellbeing and health? Professor Hugo Critchley, Chair in Psychiatry at BSMS, is attempting to answer such fundamental questions by collaborating with award-winning multimedia artist Mark Ware.
The wavelength project, launched last month, will combine art and neuroscience to investigate and interpret how people respond in mind, body and brain to natural versus artificial sounds and light. What researchers discover in the lab will help create a series of artistic works, including original music compositions, multimedia performances and immersive sound and light installations tailored to clinical, occupational and architectural settings.
Audience responses to these artistic activities will then be monitored. As a result, researchers hope to gain more detailed understanding of the emotional impact of art on the viewer, and potentially to adjust this impact on-the-fly.
"Being involved in this fascinating project is exciting for my team, which includes fourth-year medical students Oli Sparasci and Alex Mees, supervised by Dr Sarah Garfinkel," says Professor Critchley, who is also Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. "Despite our very different disciplines and approaches, Mark and I share a common interest in how art and nature can affect our physical and neurological responses."
Former Fulbright Scholar Mark Ware is also an Honorary Research Fellow at BSMS. He says: "I had a severe stroke back in 1996 – an event that suddenly and abruptly altered every aspect of my life. Since then, my artwork has become increasingly concerned with how my subjective experience has been altered by the changes in my mind and body due to stroke.
"My hope is that the project will deliver widespread benefits including for people with neurological dysfunction such as stroke, autism, cerebral palsy, ME and dementia."