Dementia and Artistic Creativity


I hope you enjoy this wonderful short film about my mother and her painting.  She really does illustrate the difference between suffering from Alzheimer’s and living with it – with gusto!.

What is the relationship between dementia and artistic creativity?  I always assumed that Mom’s new found artistic ability was simply due to the fact that dementia disabled her internal censor – that dour Scottish Presbyterian was no longer standing behind her muttering his disapproval at the frivolous waste of time spent painting.

It seems there is more to it than I thought.  My cousin Dr. Marc Raichle, Professor of Neurology at Washington University introduced me to Dr. Bruce Miller, Professor of Neurology at UC San Francisco and clinical director of aging and dementia.  Dr. Miller studies the link between artistic creativity and dementia, specifically Frontotemporal dementia (FTD).   “In his dementia work he has discovered a small, but remarkable subset of patients in whom visual or musical creativity emerges despite the progression of language and social impairment.”  http://memory.ucsf.edu/ourcenter/staff/bmiller

I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Miller last fall.   Mom’s dementia diverges from the FTD model and is singularly interesting due to the fact that she has neither memory of painting nor recognition of the paintings themselves.  Clearly there is much to be learned from and about Mom.  She’d be thrilled to know that she is contributing to our understanding of the brain.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s