Johns Hopkins Medicine and Aspen Institute Unveil Blueprint to Advance Health and Wellbeing Through the Arts

December 1, 2021

Scientists, Artists, and Technologists Collaborate on New Strategy to Maximize Healing Power of the Arts

Contacts: Megan Howard
International Arts + Mind Lab, Pedersen Brain Science Institute
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine>

Jon Purves
The Aspen Institute 

Washington, DC, December 1, 2021
Today, a broad-based group of scientists, artists, clinicians, technology pioneers, and healthcare leaders are releasing an action plan that partners science, the arts, and technology to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities around the globe. NeuroArts Blueprint: Advancing the Science of Arts, Health, and Wellbeing will be presented at a virtual event that includes remarks by Renée Fleming, soprano and artistic advisor to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. A closing performance features the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

The NeuroArts Blueprint offers a set of bold, culture-changing steps to cultivate the emerging field of neuroarts—the study of how the arts and aesthetic experiences measurably change the brain, body, and behavior and how this knowledge can be used to improve health and wellbeing.

“Basic and clinical science explain how music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and many other art modalities engage multiple biological systems simultaneously,” said Eric Nestler, MD, PhD, neuroscientist and dean of Academic and Scientific Affairs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “The health benefits of the arts extend across the lifespan, from enhancing early childhood development to reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The NeuroArts Blueprint initiative is led by the International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics from the Pedersen Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and the Health, Medicine & Society (HMS) Program of the Aspen Institute. Four pioneers in the sciences and the arts guide the work as Advisory Council cochairs: Renée Fleming, Eric Nestler, Michael Paseornek and Anna Deavere Smith. The initiative is co-directed by Susan Magsamen, executive director of IAM Lab, and Ruth J. Katz, executive director of HMS.

“It will take a sustained and collective effort over many years to realize the full potential of the arts for health and wellbeing,” said Renée Fleming. “But the passion, the expertise, the drive are abundant. This is our moment.”

Advances in technology, including brain imaging, novel biomarkers, and artificial intelligence, have accelerated scientific discoveries over the past two decades. But the report explains that fragmentation has made it difficult to take full advantage of the new knowledge. “Scientists, artists, and technology pioneers are already working at the edges of innovation in their own fields to elevate art as essential to wellbeing, but they have too often been siloed,” said Michael Paseornek, former president and founder of motion picture production at Lionsgate. “Bringing them together is pure alchemy.”

An equity imperative is embedded in the emerging field of neuroarts. “The arts have been used in the healing practices of all cultures across history. By inviting communities into the neuroarts ecosystem of today, we build on that legacy,” said Anna Deavere Smith, actress, playwright and author. The NeuroArts Blueprint highlights the importance of diverse stakeholder participation in every facet of neuroarts and the value of bringing voices of underrepresented communities forward.

The Blueprint offers concrete principles, findings, recommendations, and action steps to realize the transformative potential of neuroarts. It presents both a five-year plan and a longer-term vision of a mature neuroarts ecosystem dedicated to advancing human health, strengthening communities, and promoting culture change. Specific strategies are recommended to expand and share research, increase the use of evidence-based arts practices, design clear educational and career pathways, and ground those efforts in dedicated funding, effective policy, and a solid leadership and communications infrastructure.

The Blueprint is available here. Details for the virtual event celebrating the release are available here. Funding support comes from AARP, Dana Foundation, and Johns Hopkins University. The Ford Foundation is supporting early steps to implement the report’s recommendations.


The International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) is a Center for Applied Neuroaesthetics from the Pedersen Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Its mission is to amplify human potential through the arts and aesthetic experiences. IAM Lab is pioneering Impact Thinking, a translational research approach designed to address intractable problems in health, wellbeing, and learning through the arts. IAM Lab brings together researchers and practitioners across a range of disciplines and art modalities through research, education and outreach, and community building. IAM Lab aims to accelerate the emerging field of neuroaesthetics and empower humankind to realize the full potential of the arts to help us heal, grow, and flourish.

The Health, Medicine & Society Program (HMS) at the Aspen Institute  brings together influential groups of thought leaders, decisionmakers, and the informed public to consider health challenges facing the US in the 21st century and to identify practical solutions for addressing them.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

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