Art helps unlock Alzheimer’s patients’ thoughts and emotions

Posted under Blog on September 26th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Further evidence is emerging of the role that art can play in opening the mind, especially for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Creative expression may hold the key to improving communication between those fighting the disease and caregivers.

The ability to communicate effectively is one of the first to be damaged by the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Patients may carry the same emotions and thoughts that they always have but their capacity to transmit these feelings diminishes rapidly.

A new study in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences followed the impact of art on acclaimed sculptor Mary Hecht before her death in April 2013. Hecht suffered from a severe case of vascular dementia, caused by problems in the brain’s blood supply, which affected her communication and memory.

Despite being unable to recall the names of common animals, she retained the ability to reproduce free-hand drawings from memory.

Dr Luis Fornazzari, study author and neurological consultant at St Michael’s Hospital’s Memory Clinic in Ontario, said: “Mary Hecht was a remarkable example of how artistic abilities are preserved in spite of the degeneration of the brain and a loss in the more mundane, day-to-day memory functions”.

While art therapy has verified palliative benefits, doctors remain unsure why creative expression can have such profound effects in improving memory and communication.  

Dr Daniel Potts, an Alabama-based neurologist and dementia specialist, commented: “Art therapy is helpful for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients because it enables an individual who is having trouble communicating to bypass the language problems they may be having and communicate and express themselves in a different way.

“It gives an individual a sense of accomplishment… It allows their true self to be expressed when it otherwise can’t”.

Those behind the study plan to lead a larger study of artists with neurological illnesses to further explore the importance of the relationship between art and cognitive brain capacity. 

Tags: alzheimer's treatment, Art therapy



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