Culture and Health

The Michelangelo Effect: Art Improves the Performance in a Virtual Reality Task Developed for Upper Limb Neurorehabilitation

Great art masterpieces combine with virtual reality technology to enhance the effectiveness of neurorehabilitation for people who, as a result of a stroke, have suffered severe neurological damage resulting in the reduction or loss of the use of one arm or one side of the body (hemiplegia). In a virtual reality environment, patients were asked to move a cursor on a virtual canvas placed in front of them using the hand of the side of the body paralyzed due to the brain injury. Movements on the canvas uncovered the image of an artistic masterpiece, for example Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, Botticelli's Venus or Picasso's Three Musicians, returning, at the end of the exercise when the cursor had traversed the entire canvas, the complete work. Compared with a group of patients who performed the same exercise by simply coloring the blank canvas, patients who virtually painted a work experienced better results and faster recovery over time, as well as less fatigue at the end of therapy.