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Neurological Review
June 2004

Portraits of Artists: Emergence of Visual Creativity in Dementia

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco.



Arch Neurol. 2004;61(6):842-844. doi:10.1001/archneur.61.6.842

As a uniquely human talent that has evolved from prehistoric cave paintings, art draws on many brain areas responsible for various cognitive processes. The pattern of degeneration in dementia leads to predictable changes in art. The visuospatial deficits in Alzheimer disease lead to less precision and attention to spatial relationships. In some cases of frontotemporal dementia, artistic creativity appears anew as the disease develops. The artwork is approached in a compulsive manner and is often realistic or surrealistic in style. Art in the context of dementia provides a unique window into the cognitive processes of various brain regions and an opportunity for rehabilitation.