Neurology in pictorial arts
STAVROS J. BALOYANNIS
Art is an open window of the human soul. The painting is particularly a boundless mystic language of creative beauty, expressing emotions and feelings as well as series of interior events of the artist, who endeavors to exteriorize his internal processes by visual art, inducing the observers to participate in his own interior phenomena and experiences. The language of the art is plenty of aesthetical Ideas, as Kant claimed, which are transmitted by creation of the art and realized by perception of the art. The aesthetic preferences of the artist depend upon the surrounding culture as well as the training and the experience, though there is a substantial body of evidence pleading for a biological basis of some aesthetic preferences. Ôhe perception of painting involves extensive neuronal circuits in the brain, which are extended at cortical and subcortical level. The center of vision in the occipital lobe perceives the information of the picture and collaborating with the temporal, the parietal and the frontal lobes attempts to understand the meaning as well as the emotional and philosophical message of the artist. The perception is the fundamental process of the cognition and the initial procedure of the further understanding of the language of the emotions. The understanding of the painting and its aesthetic ideas depends upon the cultural and psychological background of the observer. The painting itself, on the other hand, includes and reflects, in the majority of the cases, the psychological and emotional status of the author as well as his cultural, social and philosophical orientations intermixed with his aesthetical ideas. Large areas of the temporal, frontal and parietal lobes, in both of the brain hemispheres, participate in the embodiments of the ideas the conceptions and the feelings of the visual arts, which for the artists are frequently of existential importance. In a substantial number of neurological diseases the style of painting as well as the thematic expression is influenced by the morbid and even the premorbid personality of the artist. In the field of the movement disorders, a case of poliomyelitis is portrayed in art in the funeral stele of the priest Ruma, even from the era of ancient Egypt. His right leg is apparently atrophied and shorter than the left one. Pieter Bruegel painted very expressively the association of facial dystonias with motor inability of the lower limbs. The facial nerve palsy and its consequences on face's expression was a rather common subject in visual arts, as it was portrayed in the Cathedral of Trondheim in the 12th century as well as in St.Thomas' church in Strasbourg in the 15th century. Hemiplegic's gait has been realistically depicted by Jacque Callot. Parkinson's disease has been frequently portrayed in painting, since the first drawings by Paul Richer, in Salpetriere, demonstrating the stooped posture and the rigid positioning of the upper and lower extremities of the patients. Albrecht Dürer also depicted the rigidity and the face's amimia of persons suffered presumably from Parkinson's disease, long before this entity was described by James Parkinson. Epilepsy posses a substantial place in pictorial art. Probably the most expressive picture describing epileptic seizures is "The transfiguration" by Raffaelo Santi, completed before his death in 1520. Vincent van Gogh an epileptic himself, whose the life was full of self-mutilatory acts, described in his pictures the epileptic face and the epileptic perception, "painting in brilliant colors, well arranged, resplendent". The temporal lobe epilepsy was evidently depicted in the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico. Migrain is a common experience sometimes associated with a visual aura. Visual experiences, such as heavenly visions, perceptions in open view of falling sparks and ecstatic states have been described by Hildegard von Bingen, a famous German nun, artist, music composer, poet and author of theologian dissertations, who acted an important influence on the mysticism of the 12th century. The spinal cord and spinal column injuries were very emotionally described by the Mexican artist Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon, who suffered from poliomyelitis at the age of six years old and got a fracture of the spinal column, at the age of eighteen, due to a traffic accident. Her suffering exercised a strong influence on her artistic creativity, which was mostly focused on her physical inability. In conclusion pictorial art provides a unique way for exteriorization of emotions and feelings of the artist and his psychological and mental processes. In addition it offers the possibility for an interaction between the artist's mystical language and the observer's capacity to perceive the language and to generate and develop his own emotions.
Key words: Neurology, pictorial arts, neurological diseases, neurosciences, painting.