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

The benefits of art therapy

Posted under Blog on June 7th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Looking at a piece of art work can sharpen concentration, revive long-forgotten memories, inspire creativity and invoke emotional responses. This response can also be noted in people with Alzheimer’s disease, allowing them to connect with loved ones in a non-verbal way and offering them an opportunity to express their feelings.

Groups such as The Hilgos Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the on-going process of artistic creation for people with memory impairment, have done an excellent job in raising awareness of art therapy and showcasing its many benefits.  Many care homes across America and Western Europe have begun integrating art therapy into the daily routines of Alzheimer’s patients.  The introduction of the arts and other creative activities is now being recognised as a way of maintaining a higher quality of life for residents.

Through the creative arts, carers can engage patients and bypass some of the limitations of the disease. Whether it is painting, sketching, or clay modelling, art stimulates not only the eyes, but also the whole body. This interaction can encourage a person to reconnect with old memories and functions, allowing them to express their independence and identity.

Dr Sam Gandy, Associate Director at Mount Sinai Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in NYC, encourages this new form of therapy: “There are parts of the brain that do not deteriorate until the condition is in its late stage, this allows activities such as art therapy to still stimulate patients’ senses who are suffering from the disease.”

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has recently been pioneering a new offering for Alzheimer’s patients, allowing them to take private tours of the gallery. Patients may still be able to process the color, form and shape of a piece of art and this translates into better communication amongst the visitors. Carers have reported that patients can express themselves with greater freedom and fluidity after touring the exhibitions.

While scientists continue to carry out vital research into the treatment of Alzheimer’s, the arts can go some way to relieving some of the disease’s most difficult symptoms, help maintain patients’ independence and indignity and provide them with a meaningful creative outlet. 

Tags: Art therapy, Early Alzheimer's, treatment



Browse Categories
(Click to expand)

(Click to expand)


Alzheimers cocoa eye test Google Glass Harvard pressure sensor Seattle Stanford vampire mice Vitamin E