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Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(11):1568-83.

The neuropsychology of visual artistic production.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3400 Spruce Street, 3 West Gates, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


What happens to visual artists with neuropsychological deficits? This review will examine artistic production in individuals with a variety of syndromes including achromatopsia, neglect, visual agnosia, aphasia, epilepsy, migraine, dementia and autism. From this review it appears that artists are not spared visual-motor deficits despite their special graphic abilities. Rather their talents allow them to express visual deficits with particular eloquence. By contrast, the effects of aphasia on art are variable. In addition to deficits, neuropsychological syndromes may be associated with positive phenomena. Such phenomena induced by epilepsy or migraines can serve to inspire artists. This review also makes clear that artists with neuropsychological deficits do not necessarily produce art of lesser quality. Rather, their art may change in content or in style, sometimes in surprising and aesthetically pleasing ways. The neuropsychology of visual art also touches on a few central questions about the nature of artistic expression itself. For example, what forms can artistic representations take? How are visual features used descriptively and expressively? What roles do knowing and seeing play in depiction?

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