Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stendhal Syndrome: When Art Causes Disturbance

In the beginning was the author of "The Charterhouse of Parma": in 1817 while visiting the church of Santa Croce in Florence was seized by a strange feeling : rapid pulse, difficulty breathing and loss of balance. Stendhal was the first to describe the disorder neurological affects some people in front of works of art of immeasurable beauty.
But it was an Italian psychiatrist generally available with the publication of a book in which he described more than 100 cases. It is Graziella Margherini, head of mental health ASMN of Florence, who in 1979 wrote " The Stendhal Syndrome. The malaise of the traveler before the greatness of the art ". The survey took place from the care of tourists that come out from the Uffizi, and prey to strange illnesses, they went to the nearby hospital in Florence.

Of low incidence, the discomfort is temporary and leaves no consequences.
It seems to be affected person of great sensitivity that, in admiring artwork intense both in quality and quantity, to come into a state of mental confusion, dizziness, loss the sense of orientation, chest pain and tachycardia.

This is not an aesthetic emotion, and leaves little room for interpretation of the fantastic enjoyment of art. And 'quite a disturbance due to the contemplation of the beauty of art, especially painting and sculpture, which produce disorder in the mind and body.

How does it manifest
According to the study of Florentine psychiatrist Margherini, the syndrome can manifest itself in three different ways not always associated with: - cognitive disorders , that is: altered perception of sounds and colors, feelings of persecution or guilt and anxiety; - disisturbi of affect , ie: depression, inferiority, feeling useless; or superiority, such as euphoria, exaltation, the sense of omnipotence - panic or projections somatic anxiety as rapid heartbeat, sweating, bad breath.
Although acute disorders, fortunately are transient and do not indicate an absolutely pathological mental state . So fughiamo doubt: those who suffer from it are very healthy. 
A curious fact is that the Stendhal syndrome is not linked to artists or particular works: it has more to do with the "size" and the amount of the works art that can cause neurological reactions intense in particularly sensitive people.

From what source?
Thanks to the discovery of mirror neurons , in the 90s, we can get closer to understanding the neurological basis of aesthetic enjoyment. It seems that the brain receives too many sensitive people visual impulses at the same time, and that produce intense excitement , which is transformed into symptoms.

The neurological explanation
According to the neurologist Semir Zeki, introducer of the " neuro-aesthetics ", we are equipped with a visual brain with which we try to explain and understand the artistic creation. Similarly we have a brain artistic extension of that vision.
Our brain is not just a passive spectator who merely record the physical reality of the outside world, but is rather a creative: every time we "see" in fact we construct in our heads a work of art.
The response of the brain in front of the art could not only provide more explanations on Stendhal Syndrome, but also to better understand the functioning of the brain , the logic of which are not yet fully known.

And that psychoanalytic
There is an innovative psychoanalytic theory also suggests that the subject, suffering from Stendhal Syndrome, has taken on a subconscious level by an envious attack of beauty which would take possession. This would produce reactions autonomic and psychosomatic ailments including headaches
The subject experiences a sense of helplessness in the face of perfection and creativity that upsets him. And 'as if he wanted to be the author of so much artistic greatness, and therefore feels his impotence in the face of such splendor.