The influence of art material and instruction during art making on brain activity: A quantitative electroencephalogram study

I. Pénzes*, R Engelbert, D Heidendael, K Oti, Ellen Jongen, S van Hooren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In art therapy, it is assumed that art materials and the given instructions during art making evoke different experiences that contribute to mental health. It is theorized that cognitive, affective and sensory experiences during art therapy engage several brain networks. Electroencephalogram (EEG) measurements appears to be a promising way to measure brain activity during art making. The aim of this study was to investigate whether brain activity patterns will differ during the use of specific art material properties and instructions during art making. In this study, a quantitative EEG experiment (n = 50) using a within subject design with three conditions was conducted; art making with pencil without instruction, art making with pencil with instruction and art making with clay without instruction. Results showed that working with clay resulted in more delta activity compared to working with pencil. The different physical properties of clay and pencil seem to activate different brain activity with clay leading to more delta activity than working with pencil, which may be explained by a more relaxed state. In addition, results show that art making with instruction leads to more relaxation than working without instruction. During the condition with a specific instruction, there was less alpha and beta1 activity, compared to the pencil condition without a specific instruction. All art making conditions led to more activity in the parietal lobe compared to the frontal lobe. We discuss these findings and their implications for future research and clinical art therapy practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102024
Number of pages6
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Art materials
  • Art therapy
  • Art-making instructions
  • Brain activity
  • Quantitative electroencephalogram study
  • Within subject design


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