Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Art preserves skills despite onset of vascular dementia in 'remarkable' case of a Canadian sculptor

Date:
August 22, 2013
Source:
St. Michael's Hospital
Summary:
The ability to draw spontaneously as well as from memory may be preserved in the brains of artists long after the deleterious effects of vascular dementia have diminished their capacity to complete simple, everyday tasks, according to a new study by physicians.

This is a clay sculpture by Mary Hecht.
Credit: Estate of Mary Hecht

The ability to draw spontaneously as well as from memory may be preserved in the brains of artists long after the deleterious effects of vascular dementia have diminished their capacity to complete simple, everyday tasks, according to a new study by physicians at St. Michael's Hospital.

The finding, scheduled to be released today in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, looked at the last few years of the late Mary Hecht, an internationally renowned sculptor, who was able to draw spur-of-the moment and detailed sketches of faces and figures, including from memory, despite an advanced case of vascular dementia.

"Art opens the mind," said Dr. Luis Fornazzari, neurological consultant at St. Michael's Hospital's Memory Clinic and lead author of the paper. "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."

Hecht, who died in April 2013 at 81, had been diagnosed with vascular dementia and was wheelchair-bound due to previous strokes. Despite her vast knowledge of art and personal talent, she was unable to draw the correct time on a clock, name certain animals or remember any of the words she was asked to recall.

But she quickly sketched an accurate portrait of a research student from the Memory Clinic. And she was able to draw a free-hand sketch of a lying Buddha figurine and reproduce it from memory a few minutes later. To the great delight of St. Michael's doctors, Hecht also drew an accurate sketch of famed cellist Mstislav Rostropovich after she learned of his death earlier that day on the radio.

While she was drawing and showing medical staff her own creations, Hecht spoke eloquently and without hesitation about art.

"This is the most exceptional example of the degree of preservation of artistic skills we've seen in our clinic," said Dr. Corinne Fischer, director at St. Michael's Hospital's Memory Clinic and another of the paper's authors. "As well, most of the other studies that have been done in this area looked at other kinds of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease or frontal temporal dementia, while this is a case of cognitive reserve in a patient with fairly advanced vascular dementia."

Dr. Fornazzari previously wrote a paper detailing a musician who, despite declining health because of Alzheimer's disease, could still play the piano and learn new music. As well, in October 2011, Dr. Fischer and colleagues looked at bilingual patients with Alzheimer's and discovered they had twice as much cognitive reserve as their unilingual counterparts.

Educators should take a page from these results and encourage schools to teach the arts -- whether sculpture, painting or music -- rather than cutting back on them, said Dr. Fornazzari. "Art should be taught to everyone. It's better than many medications and is as important as mathematics or history."

Both physicians want to lead a larger study of artists with neurological illnesses to further explore the importance of art and cognitive brain capacity.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by St. Michael's Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Luis Fornazzari, Thom Ringer, Lee Ringer, Corinne E. Fischer. Preserved Drawing in a Sculptor with Dementia. The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, 2013 [link]

Cite This Page:

St. Michael's Hospital. "Art preserves skills despite onset of vascular dementia in 'remarkable' case of a Canadian sculptor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822194449.htm>.
St. Michael's Hospital. (2013, August 22). Art preserves skills despite onset of vascular dementia in 'remarkable' case of a Canadian sculptor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822194449.htm
St. Michael's Hospital. "Art preserves skills despite onset of vascular dementia in 'remarkable' case of a Canadian sculptor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130822194449.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins