Theater Performances and Media Result of Neurochemical Change in Brain

The response of audience to theater performances and media is a result of neurochemical change in brain

While watching a show or a theater performance, have you ever realized how one can feel a whirlwind of emotions, one after the other devoted to a scene. Whether it’s a play at ‘The Broadway’ or a sudden act made at home by a 4-year-old. In this paper, with the evidence of previous research we will look at the established connection between art (theater and media) and science (cognitive and biological approach), ‘how theater performances and media forms can affect neurochemical pathways in the brain and control the brain to act in a certain way and vice versa’. This paper will also show the pros and cons of how this can affect the brain of both performers as well as audience forming a conclusion.

According to McCammon, one of the definitions of Theater is the reference to it as a performance that is prepared with an outside audience in mind. This definition primarily focuses on audience and how performance is demonstrated around them. Additionally, he says that the key goal of a performance is for the audience to learn and improvise from it.

One of the neurochemicals in the brain that plays a key role in terms of feeling pleasure and happiness is Dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is supplied by the hypothalamus and it plays a key role in how one would feel after/about a reward. Dopamine can be released also with a sense of achievement. When we accomplish objective or a goal, a sudden feeling of euphoria is mainly a contribution of sudden rush of dopamine. (MD, “Dopamine”)

There is something innately theatrical about humans in extremes, and neurological conditions bring us to those extreme.” (Einhorn)

Edward Einhorn initiated the beginning of ‘NEUROfest’, which is a festival that is organized for several performances primarily about neurological conditions. Neuro-theater had simply evolved from theater however, its language as described by Einhorn is science and it shows the deep emotional form of human brain and many times performances that are held such as ‘The Brain Piece’ by New York Live Arts, the functions and various effects of brain are demonstrated via theater. With the examples stated Einhorn concludes telling how the combination of science and art can be rejoined and transformed with the help of one to the other. This also tell us, Theater can help public understand human brain better and demonstrate the discoveries to the public in a form of art. Therefore, Edwards initiation of Neurofest doesn’t only spread awareness regarding human brain and its functioning but it also establishes a bridge between the expression of art/science via science/art.

With this interesting way of expressing science through art, it has been many times also observed that theater performance itself is a derivation of synapses in the human brain.

In one of the paper written by Naomi Rokotnitz, ‘Performance and Cognition’, it is described that in the collections by Clair and Cook, it was demonstrated that actors need to stay confident, calm, and focused in order to perform better under pressure therefore it was also established that induce neurochemical changes in actors will allow them to make confident, braver choices in their exploration. (Rokotnitz)

Many of the researches conducted show that there is a strict coupling between motor and emotional control and the need to manage social situations, makes theater an ideal tool for rehabilitation purposes. Theater can derive a platform for a form of neurological exercise that can help actors and audience deal with certain social situations better. (Rokotnitz)

With the scientific research making wonders, in the search for Parkinsons cure, it has been concluded that theater can play a key role as art therapy and that can help the parkinsons patients by exerting a strong drive for strengthening of dopaminergic pathways. (Rokotnitz)

Theater performance and drama has been cure for many neurological and psychological condition including depression (depressive disorder). A Depressive disorder is a mood disorder that makes you feel constant sadness and lack of interest. This can often times result into negative emotions and difficulty focusing on everyday tasks including eating, sleeping etc. Depression is also often believed to be a result of imbalance of serotonin in the human brain. (MD, Depressive Disorder)

Recent discoveries established that one of the proven therapies used for depression is “Drama Therapy”, Drama therapy uses play, embodiment, projection, role, story, metaphor, empathy, distancing, witnessing, performance, and improvisation to help people make meaningful change. (What Is Drama Therapy)

According to a latest journal published in the British journey of Psychiatry, a new discovery shows; elderly who are regularly at cinema and theater are less prone to be found depressed. The research showed that adults who attended vary many cultural events once a few months were also 32 percent less likely to develop depression. Additionally, people who frequently visited theater and film screenings, operas and theater performances at least once a month had a 48% less risk of developing depression. (Primack et al.)

However, it could be said that research is evident in previous discoveries of marketing research that tells theater is one of the industries that use dopamine as a currency to hook people. The target of the industry tends to be the audience and solely how they respond to this form of art. The research claim that these industries create reward driven ads, and breaks in between theaters where audience has to wait in order to develops anticipation and facilitate the desired behavioral response. ‘From 2008 to 2013, Dos Equis grew by 116% in the American market, thus turning it into “the fastest growing beer brand in the country.”'(Bunke)

If theater and media is the culprit, then this encourages the real answer; neurochemical stimulation is the reason why the audience acts the way they do, the drama tends to stimulate memories to various relatable situations and stimulates responses as emotions and the suspense plays as the reward which then results into greater dopamine rush. Which is then a good strategy for industries to misuse. In one of the studies conducted by Noice etal,’Theater Arts for improving cognitive and affective health’, the researchers after an experimental approach to measure brain activity during theater and visual art predicted; that there was an increase in the volume in brain regions that support memory and executive control, increases in connectivity in brain regions that support the variety of cognitive processes engaged by theater training and improvements in the performance of tasks that tap relational memory as well as attentional and executive controls. (Noice et al.)

Although, Theater and drama is good for the human brain, it can make you laugh and certain visuals can lead to motivation which could in turn benefit mental and physical health. In the Long run, it can result into health benefits such as strengthening one’s immune system. Additionally, it spikes your blood pressure, then releases it, which can leave you feeling relaxed. When you’re having a chuckle, extra oxygen is being delivered to your muscles, lungs and heart as well. (Living)

Therefore, Initiatives like NEURO-theater can encourage the use of being able to control neurochemicals as a treatment for neurological disorders. This shows in term how much theater both as audience and as acting can benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of a human brain. (Einhorn).

From a very long time, many researchers have experimented with science and theater. Studying the audience reaction to the performance has proven in many researches for it to be a result of neurochemical change in brain. Research has proven a direct impact of neurochemical change due to theater performance shown by fMRI scans and cognitive therapeutic measures. Therefore, theater is more of a result of biological and cognitive stimulation in the human brain. With the help of more research this can be used as a treatment for neurological disorders like schizophrenia.