We asked Anastasia Karagiannopoulou, Neuropsychologist, Lecturer of Neuropsychology, Biopsychology & Cognitive Psychology at Metropolitan College, University East London, to study deep tracing and give us her expert opinion.
Here’s what she shared with us:
“Deep tracing provides a multisensory perceptual experience by activating four sensory input modalities (visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile), recreating a synaesthetic experience. Visual and somatosensory parts of the brain, as well as frontal, temporal, olfactory and limbic areas are implicated during this process.”
“Deep tracing lies on the notion of activating both of our visual perception streams, stemming from the occipital cortex. Specifically, the “where” dorsal visual pathway, which is connected to the parietal lobe, is activated when we use our visuospatial and visuo-constructional ability, that guides our fine and gross visual motor coordination in space and prepares our vision for action (Goodale & Milner, 1992).
The second visual stream which is simultaneously activated is known as the “what” ventral visual pathway which projects to the temporal lobe and provides information of the stimuli’s shape, colour, form, and features (Goodale & Milner, 1992). Sustained visuospatial attention is required throughout the deep tracing experience, which is associated with the activation of the right parietal cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) (Thakral et al. 2009).”
“Deep tracing may also impact the activation of the brain’s reward circuit. In a recent study Kaimal et al. (2017) applied a non-invasive hemodynamic brain-imaging technique, which measures blood flow and elicits highly activated brain regions, known as functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), while participants performed colouring, doodling and free drawing.
The study showed that while performing these creative tasks the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was significantly activated especially in the doodling condition. The mPFC is responsible for emotional, affective responses and motivation, as it constitutes an integral part of the reward circuit, along with the amygdala, the nucleus accumbens, the hippocampus, and the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA). This reward circuit is interlinked with our brain’s dopaminergic system, which helps us predict pleasure outcomes and contributes to emotional regulation.”
“According to another study, electroencephalography (EEG), which measures brain wave activation, was applied while artists and non-artists created visual art(Belkofer et al., 2014). The results showed significant alpha waves activation in the left-hemisphere of the artists and significant activity in the frontal lobes of the non-artists. The latter finding may be explained by the novelty of the task, which required higher levels of sustained attention. Alpha waves are often detected when the brain is in a relaxed state of meditation, mindfulness and creative alertness (Kim & Kaimal, 2019).
In contrast, dysregulated patterns of alpha waves, as well as abnormal activations of the prefrontal cortex are linked to depression and anxiety (Fernández-Palleiro et al., 2020; Koenigs & Grafman, 2009). Creativity and visual art making are found to be correlated with theta and gamma wave patterns in the brain (Kim & Kaimal, 2019; Stevens & Zabelina, 2019). Theta waves are associated with deep meditation, reduced consciousness, whereas gamma waves are associated with heightened perception and working memory. Deep tracing may lead to the activation of alpha and gamma waves when conducted in a mindfulness setting.”
“Deep tracing may also be interlinked with the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN). The DMN connects the medial prefrontal cortex to the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and it remains paradoxically active, when the brain is not attending to any external stimuli; this provides the individual with the opportunity to self-reflect, day-dream, travel autonoetically, plan and set goals or think divergently by generating novel ideas (Bolwerk et al., 2014).However, during mindfulness the DMN has shown to be less activated (Garisson et al., 2015), which allows other pivotal mental processes to take place (Tang et al., 2015).
During states of mindfulness, the dorsal anterior insula is activated, which is responsible for perceiving bodily perceptions, as well as the ACC, which is highly linked to attention and self-monitoring. As a result, all sensory information can be perceived in real time and complete present-moment awareness is accomplished. According to recent neuroscience research conducted on mindfulness through meditation, changes in the activity and structure of the ACC, the posterior cingulate cortex and the frontolimbic structures were detected while participants practiced mindfulness, which enhanced emotional regulation, concentration control, self-regulation and reduction of stress (Tang et al., 2015).”
“Recent neuroimaging findings on the therapeutic effect of creating art and practicing mindfulness, elucidates the need to incorporate deep tracing in this field of research. Deep tracing can become a powerful tool that bridges the benefits of both worlds, art therapy and mindfulness, leading to multi-sensory integration, higher levels of self-awareness, attention control and emotional self-regulation.”
Anastasia Karagiannopoulou, Neuropsychologist
Cognitive Neuropsychology, University of Edinburgh,
Sleep Disorders, University Health Network, Toronto Western Hospital,
Lecturer of Neuropsychology, Biopsychology & Cognitive Psychology at Metropolitan College, University East London
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