Few studies have been conducted on the physiological effects of creative art activities. In this study, the effects of creative art activities on human stress were investigated, and their effects were compared in 57 healthy college students (27 males and 30 females). Subjects were divided into four groups, each of which participated in 30-minute sessions of one of the following creative activities or a control activity: (1) playing the piano; (2) molding a piece of clay; (3) calligraphy (writing using a brush and ink); and (4) remaining silent (as a control activity). Cortisol levels and he State-trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-I) were measured before and after each session. Post- session cortisol levels were markedly decreased for piano playing, clay molding and calligraphy, indicating a reduction in stress due to participation in creative activities; the effect of piano playing as significantly greater than clay molding and calligraphy. Post-session STAI scores decreased significantly in all groups other than the control group, indicating a reduction in anxiety induced by engaging in creative activities. The psychological and physiological stress-reducing effects of creative activity, particularly playing the piano, were demonstrated. In addition, the role of music education in school in mental health is discussed.
Although music educators have tried to address the question of why every child should study music in school (Hodges, 2005), there is no definite answer regarding the purpose and meaning of music education. One of the reasons for this is that the biological study of music and music education has been insufficient. However, brain imaging techniques such as fMRI or PET scans have been used to determine brain activity while listening to music (Zatorre, Evans, & Meyer, 1994). Moreover, the effect of music training on the brain has been reported (Pantev et al., 1998). However, compared with the brain imaging research in music, the investigation of the relationship between music and biochemical substances in the body, that is, the behavioral-endocrinological study of music, is in its infancy.
The effects of art appreciation (passive activity), such as listening to music, on human physiol- ogy and psychology are gradually becoming clear. There is research in music therapy (Knight & Rickard, 2001; Kreutz et al., 2004), music education (Hodges, 2003), the psychology of music (Fukui, & Yamashita, 2003; Gerra et al., 1998; Khalfa, Bella, Roy, Peretz, & Lupien, 2003; Shenfield, Trehub, & Nakata, 2003; Yamamoto, Naga, & Shimizu, 2007), and other similar fields (Nilsson, 2009; Nilsson, Unosson, & Rawal, 2005). Most of these studies have been on the stress-reducing effects of listening to music, and listen- ing to music has been reported to cause a reduction in the levels of cortisol (C), a major stress hormone. C is a vital hormone involved in functions such as glucose metabolism and immune function, but in cases of chronic stress, it has been known to induce ymptoms such as hyperten- sion and impaired cognitive function Lundberg, 2005). In addition, increasing C levels with age may lead to a decline in memory or progression of Alzheimer’s disease (Huang et al., 2009). Thus, the reduction of C through the passive activity of listening to music may be useful for the treatment and prevention of diseases and disabilities. However, few studies have been conducted on the effects of creative art activities, such as playing musical instruments and other creative activities, on the mind and body. Also, no research has compared the effects on stress. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of creative art activity (piano playing, clay molding, calligraphy) on human psychology and physiology and to examine whether the different
activities had different effects.
Few studies have been conducted on the effects of creative active art activities compared with passive appreciation of the arts. This is the first study to evaluate the effects of creative art activities (piano playing, clay molding, calligraphy) on human psychology and endocrinology and to examine whether the different activities have different effects. The psychological and physiological stress-reducing effects of creative activity, particularly the marked effects of music performance (piano playing), were demonstrated in this study. Because C plays a major role in he maintenance of homeostasis (reward and emotion), artistic creative activities, especially music (performance and listening), may play a crucial role in sustaining human life. We consider this an important factor when considering the value of music education. Until now, the purpose of music education has been said to be the transmission of cultural heritage or to help students to achieve their potential. Although concerns regarding the purpose or meaning of music education continue to be raised, the results of this study showed that there is a psychological and behavioral- endocrinological meaning to playing music. Though music has philosophical and aesthetic meanings, this study confirms its biological value as well. In previous research, listening to music was Figure 1. C levels of 57 subjects sampled before and after activities. An ANOVA revealed that the main effect of C changes was significant (F1,113 = 5.57, p = 0.0202). A post-hoc test revealed that piano playing was significantly more effective than other activities (p < 0.0000) Toyoshima et al. 5 shown to have a particularly high stress-reducing effect. In this study, music performance showed the same effect as listening to music. With all the stresses of modern society, music education in school has a new purpose: the improvement of mental health. Moreover, artistic activities have been reported to reduce the risk of dementia onset (Verghese et al., 2003); music therapy is particularly effective (Fukui & Toyoshima, 2008; Guétin et al., 2009). Music facilitates expression, communication and relationships in a non-verbal context. It may become an innovative, low-cost option for use in preventive medicine and alternative medicine in a modern society burdened with escalating medical costs due to a low birthrate and aging population. The results of this research demonstrate the possibility of musical training as part of school and social education for stress management and dementia prevention. At the same time, the results obtained in the present study suggest the biological value (function and meaning) of music and other arts. In other words, creative activities, particularly music, may regulate personal psychological and physiological states and have a vital function in enhancing mental fitness. If art is a by-product of evolution that does neither harm nor good (Pinker, 1997), there is no need for humans to devote themselves to art to the extent that they have. The “survival
value” of music and arts education truly lies in its “capacity to help the person.” Although we can- not yet find a definite answer for the necessity of music education in school, this research provides further evidence of the value of music education. In the era of brain science, the behavioral-endocrinological study of music is still in its infancy compared with the research that has involved imaging techniques such as fMRI or PET. The purpose and meaning of music education will be clarified by further biological research.
International Journal of Music Education.