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Making art can help keep your mental faculties strong as you age, according to a new study out of Germany. For the experiment, researchers began by scanning the brains of 28 individuals aged 62 to 70 and asking them to answer questions such as "Can you usually find something to laugh about?" and "Does your belief in yourself get you through hard times?". In the next ten weeks, half the group was given art-making classes in which "they were introduced to various painting and drawing techniques, and then created their own artworks," while the other group took art appreciation classes, learning how to analyze paintings and participate in group discussions. 

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Researchers found that individuals who had actually made art showed a greater increase in brain function than those who merely learned how to appreciate it better. "The second set of brain scans found increased levels of functional connectivity among those who participated in the hands-on art class—but, again, not among members of the art appreciation class. The improvement was specifically found within the brain’s default mode network, which is associated with cognitive processes such as introspection, self-monitoring, and memory." If someone you know is retiring soon, consider getting them painting lessons as a gift.

Read more at Pacific Standard

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