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Cogn Behav Neurol. 2007 Mar;20(1):48-61.

A case-controlled study of altered visual art production in Alzheimer's and FTLD.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.



To characterize dementia-induced changes in visual art production.


Although case studies show altered visual artistic production in some patients with neurodegenerative disease, no case-controlled studies have quantified this phenomenon across groups of patients.


Forty-nine subjects [18 Alzheimer disease, 9 frontotemporal dementia (FTD), 9 semantic dementia (SD), 15 healthy older controls (NC)] underwent formal neuropsychologic testing of visuospatial, perceptual, and creative functioning, and produced 4 drawings. Subjective elements of drawings were rated by an expert panel that was blind to diagnosis.


Despite equal performance on standard visuospatial tests, dementia groups produced distinct patterns of artistic features that were significantly different from NCs. FTDs used more disordered composition and less active mark-making (P<0.05). Both FTDs and SDs drawings were rated as more bizarre and demonstrated more facial distortion than NCs (P<0.05). Also, SDs drastically failed a standardized test of divergent creativity. Alzheimer disease artwork was more similar to controls than to FTDs or SDs, but showed a more muted color palette (P<0.05) and trends toward including fewer details, less ordered compositions, and occasional facial distortion.


These group differences in artistic style likely resulted from disease-specific focal neurodegeneration, and elucidate the contributions of particular brain regions to the production of visual art.

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