Let's face it, all art is therapeutic. But, to a person who lives with a damaged nervous system coloring and copying shapes can be an important part of their therapeutic process. Coloring and copying shapes can be helpful and rehabilitative to those who suffer a traumatic brain injury.
We process art (visual spatial information) in the limbic system. That is the portal for the hippocampus and short-term memory. In 2008, Marian Tsanov and Denise Manahan-Vaughan wrote Synaptic Plasticity from Visual Cortex to Hippocampus: Systems Integration in Spatial Information Processing "The adult cerebral cortex possesses the remarkable ability to change its neuronal connectivity through experience, a phenomenon termed “Synaptic plasticity.” Synaptic plasticity constitutes a cellular mechanism that is thought to underlie information storage and memory formation in the brain, and represents a use-dependent long-lasting increase or decrease in synaptic strength. Recent findings, that the adult visual cortex undergoes dynamic synaptic plasticity that is driven by active visual experience, suggest that it may be involved in information processing that could contribute to memory formation. The visual cortex provides a crucial sensory input to the hippocampus, and is a key component for the creation of spatial memories. An understanding of how visual cortical neurons respond with synaptic plasticity to visual experience, and whether these responses influence the induction of hippocampal plasticity, is fundamental to our understanding of the neuronal mechanisms and functional consequences of visuospatial information processing. "
Therefore, it follows that there maybe extreme benefit to the person with Traumatic brain injury to copy shapes and to color them in. These actions do not require to much neurological energy and can be done as the client tolerates. In rehabilitation of this sort, slow and easy is the rule of thumb. The client will progress in a slow steady fashion when using these exercises.
From the observational study I have done (While training professionals from all over the world for over 20 year.) I can attest to the fact that this process is needed. That is why I created my iBook "Traumatic Brain Injury: Survivor to Survivor "Let's Make it Better With Art" This iBook provides interactive activities that stimulate the limbic system and can be done at the clients tolerance level; I also created a successful distance learning program to certify professionals and I offer free art/cognitive exercises as my life's work.
Incidentally, I am a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist of 9 years and a practicing professional art therapist for 25 years. You may also be interested to know that I created the Therapeutic Drawing Series over 20 years ago.
Yes, while there is extensive research and many articles have been written about the brain and the benefits of art therapy. There are few who really comprehend how very important it is to expose people with traumatic brain injury to simple and gentle exercises that work specifically with the the visual cortex and the hippocampal areas of the brain. Once working in these areas of the brain is accomplished our observational studies have shown that all other forms of rehabilitation are easier to tolerate and to accomplish. This then enables a better quality of life and greatly improves overall attention for those who have cognitive deficits. I hope all art therapists will incorporate coloring and copying shapes into their therapy for persons who have suffered a significant and life altering traumatic brain injury. It will make your job easier and your client will thank you for it.
Maureen C. Del Giacco, Ph.D., LCAT