Art and neuroplasticity: are they linked?

Innovation Week celebrates the ground breaking discoveries and transformative inventions from our academics and students.


We can make art – in all its forms – because of the way the brain works, but what does art do to our brains and mental wellbeing? This panel brings together medical researchers focusing around both ends of the demographic spectrum - youth mental health and dementia and art practitioners to consider these question and more.

This event was held at the Seymour Centre on Wednesday 1 August 2018.

The Speakers:

  • Associate Professor Elizabeth Scott has expertise in youth mood disorders, service developments for youth mental health, as well as sleep and circadian dysfunction. She is the Director of Uspace - inpatient services for young people with emerging psychiatric disorders at St Vincent’s Private Hospital. Associate Professor Scott is research affiliate at the Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney and the School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame. Associate Professor Scott has substantial clinical expertise in the medical complications of psychiatric disorders, neuroimmunology and structural imaging in depressive and anxiety disorders. She also has extensive experience in developing and evaluating comprehensive assessment and management programs for young people with mental health problems through her work with the Brain & Mind Centre as well as the headspace programs in Central and Eastern Sydney.

  • Professor Sharon Naismith is a Clinical Neuropsychologist, National Health and Medical ResearchCouncil (NHMRC) Dementia Leadership Fellow and holds the Leonard P Ullman Chair in Psychology at the University of Sydney. She also Heads the Healthy Brain Ageing Program at the Brain and Mind Centre, a one-of-its-kind early intervention clinic for dementia. Her work focuses on modifiable risk factors for dementia and clinical interventions for early cognitive decline including cognitive training, depression, sleep, dietary, e-health and pharmacological interventions. She is currently Chief Investigator on competitive grants totalling ~$11 million including two NHMRC Centres of Research Excellence. She has co-authored more than 230 papers since 2001, and has been cited >7800 times. She is currently involved in evaluating the impact of an art program for people with dementia, in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Gill Nicol, Museum of Contemporary Art Director of Audience Engagement. Gill has over 30 years' experience in the arts, working with contemporary art and audiences. Originally trained as an artist, Gill has worked for numerous organisations across the UK including Engage (National Association for Gallery Education), Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), Tate Liverpool, Spike Print Studio and Arnolfini in Bristol. Her focus for the MCA has been to embed a culture of research and reflection, enabling teams to fully understand the impact of all the work they deliver. Alongside this has been a drive to investigate what access, diversity and inclusion means to the Museum and for its many audiences. All of this work shows her commitment to making contemporary art accessible, in as many ways as possible, and for as many people as possible.

  • Samantha Meers AO is executive deputy chairman of property and investment group the Nelson Meers Group, and co-founder and trustee of the Nelson Meers Foundation. Her current board appointments include chairman of Belvoir St Theatre; chairman of Documentary Australia; chairman of the Brett Whiteley Foundation; deputy chairman of the Federal Government’s Creative Partnerships Australia; a trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW and a director of the State Library of NSW Foundation. Ms Meers also sits on advisory boards for the University of Sydney and the Centre for Social Impact at the University of NSW. Ms Meers began her career as a commercial lawyer with Mallesons Stephen Jacques (now King and Wood Mallesons), and her executive career included senior management roles in the media sector. Ms Meers is a member of Chief Executive Women and a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

  • Bernadette Harvey is an acclaimed soloist and chamber musician and a senior lecturer of piano and piano pedagogy at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She completed a masters and doctorate of musical arts at the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, New York) and has taught at the New England Conservatory and the Longy School of Music at Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1997 she was the Artistic Director of the Australian Women’s Music Festival and in 2000 she was awarded the Centenary Medal for her contributions to Australian music. Harvey is currently researching injury-preventive keyboard techniques to enable her wide circle of students to maintain prosperous and injury-free careers.


This event was part of the 2018 Innovation Week. The University of Sydney's Innovation Week celebrates the ground breaking discoveries and transformative inventions from our academics and students.

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