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The Science of the Arts: Exploring the Powerful Art/Brain Connection

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of music and other arts to all of humanity. But their power and their value go far beyond easing us through difficult times. The arts don’t just allow us to “feel” something; scientists are now providing evidence on how they actually improve health and well-being. What exactly is the field of NeuroArts? How do the arts affect the brain and help improve overall health? What potential do the arts have as a therapy for neurological disorders? Watch Renée Fleming, world-renowned soprano, and Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), discuss the the powerful connection between the arts, our brains, and our health, with Jon Hamilton of NPR. This event took place on July 15, 2020, as part of our Aspen Ideas: Health 20/20 digital series.

About the speakers:

Dr. Francis Collins

Director, National Institutes of Health

Francis Collins is director of the National Institutes of Health. A physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes, he led the international Human Genome Project, which culminated with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book in 2003. Collins was director of the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 to 2008. Prior to NIH, he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at University of Michigan. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009.


Renée Fleming

Soprano; Co-Director, Aspen Opera Theater; Artistic Advisor at Large, Kennedy Center

Renée Fleming is an acclaimed soprano who sings in the world’s greatest opera houses and concert halls. She’s the only classical artist to ever sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl (2014) and co-director of Aspen Opera Theater. As artistic advisor to the Kennedy Center, Fleming spearheads a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health focused on music, health, and neuroscience. She has presented her Music and the Mind talks around the world, earning Research!America’s Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion. Other honors include four Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, Germany’s Cross of the Order of Merit, and France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.


Jon Hamilton

Correspondent, Science Desk, NPR

Jon Hamilton is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk who focuses on neuroscience and health risks. Hamilton went to Liberia in 2014 as part of the NPR team that covered Ebola and to Japan to cover the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. He contributed several pieces to the Science Desk series "The Human Edge," which looked at what makes people the most versatile and powerful species on Earth. In 2009, Hamilton received the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award for his piece on the neuroscience behind treating autism. Before joining NPR in 1998, Hamilton was a media fellow with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation studying health policy issues.

The views and opinions of the speakers are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Aspen Institute.

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