We all feel like we don’t fit in or are different in some special way during certain periods of our lives. It’s part of growing up. But for some of us we just stay different.
Structural brain differences in relation to expertise have been demonstrated in a number of domains including visual perception, spatial navigation, complex motor skills and musical ability. However no studies have assessed the structural differences associated with representational skills in visual art. As training artists are inclined to be a heterogeneous group in terms of their subject matter and chosen media, it was of interest to investigate whether there would be any consistent changes in neural structure in response to increasing representational drawing skill. In the current study a cohort of 44 graduate and post-graduate art students and non-art students completed drawing tasks. Scores on these tasks were then correlated with the regional grey and white matter volume in the cortical and subcortical structures. An increase in grey matter density in the left anterior cerebellum and the right medial frontal gyrus was observed in relation to observational drawing ability, whereas artistic training (art students vs. non-art students) was correlated with increased grey matter density in the right precuneus. This suggests that observational drawing ability relates to changes in structures pertaining to fine motor control and procedural memory, and that artistic training in addition is associated with enhancement of structures pertaining to visual imagery. The findings corroborate the findings of small-scale fMRI studies and provide insights into the properties of the developing artistic brain.