Back to the F**kture: Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross

type - podcast
As we seek purpose at a time of continued global uncertainty, Your Brain on Art authors Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross join Martin Raymond on his Back To The F**kture podcast episode to discuss the science behind art, and the true power it has to heal and transform. 

I’ve known Ross for many years in her role as jeweller, artist and vice-president of design for hardware products at Google, while Magsamen’s work as a translational researcher and founder of the International Arts and Mind Lab (IAM Lab) has always intrigued me because it’s one of those burgeoning areas of science that sits at the heart of every question we ask about design, architecture and the arts generally – why do they affect us so viscerally, emotionally, spiritually, even physically?

Take sound, for instance. While we accept that it can improve our mood when we hear a certain song, what if our doctor prescribed it to relieve very high levels of chronic pain? As Ross and Magsamen explain in my Back To the F**kture podcast, this is already happening, as many LS:N Global members are already familiar with in trends such as Recuperative Living and Conscious Deceleration. 

One form known as vibroacoustic therapy, or VAT, treats both physical and mental pain by imparting a low-frequency sine wave into the body using a device embedded with speakers. VAT is effective enough that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the therapy for increasing pain relief, circulation and mobility.


Their book and my podcast are alive with such insights: why rhythmic movement releases serotonin that allows us to deal more effectively with physical pain; how therapeutic drawing activates parts of our brain associated with verbal processing so we can verbalise trauma as well as visualise it; how fMRI studies of people reading poetry ignite those parts of the brain associated with a state neuroscientists refer to as ‘pre-chill’, where, as Magsamen says, ‘we ride a gentle crescendo of calm emotion; which is to say, reading a few poems when restless or unable to sleep can help relax you and give you more perspective and insight’. 

Published by:

24 March 2023

Author: Martin Raymond



Research into the neuroarts, as they’ve dubbed this movement, has also sparked debate about how many senses we have. ‘Some suggest that the number could be as great as fifty-three,’ continues Magsamen, ‘and include complex dynamic networks such as thermoception, or how we sense heat; equilibrioception, our perception of balance; and proprioception, our awareness of how our body moves through space.’

Ross adds: ‘Beyond these basic biomarkers already captured through wearable tech, engineers are perfecting wearable skin sensors capable of analysing our hormones, proteins and chemical states in real time, offering us early warning conditions like prolonged stress, while others are at work developing smart threads or clothing that moves with you throughout the day and become a data stream via circuitry invisible to the naked eye.’

Such knowledge will allow us to develop sensory literacy programmes for tomorrow’s multiplex workplace where the many ‘states’ of how we work, as we outline in our Work States Futures report and webinar, ‘will teach us how to be empathic, sympathetic, curious and alive to possibility…’, says Ross.

This is vital in a landscape where our humanity is increasingly being challenged by convincing chatbots and uber-intelligent, open-source AI.

You can hear Martin’s full Back to the F**kture podcast with Ivy and Susan here and find out more about their neuroarts work here.

The US edition of Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us by Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross is now available from Penguin Random House, while UK readers can buy it from Waterstones, all good independent bookshops or direct from Amazon.

Tune in to the podcast on Audioboom, Spotify, Apple.