Art And The Brain: Effects Of Dementia On Art Production In Art Therapy

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Art and the brain: Effects of dementia on art production in art therapy (Safar, A., & Press, D. 2011)

Literature Review- J. Wiley (2012)

There are many forms of dementia. Dementia is generally acknowledged as a genetic disorder; however, elders are living longer and the number of individuals affected by an age related degenerative disorder is flourishing. Safar and Press (2011) examined art and the brain from a neurological and studio art therapy perspective of a women artist diagnosed with a degenerative illness. Safar and Press (2011) examined neurological symptoms associated with dementia, and the therapeutic process. In this particular report the participant was an artist. It is important to understand that the majority of individuals who utilize art therapy will not employ the specific skills associated with being an artist; however, Safer and Press (2011) provide important information that can be useful to consider regarding the loss of an acquired skill and the overall level of functioning in individuals with dementia. Safar and Press (2011) identified generalized characteristics of brain lesions in dementia patients and their effect on art production of artists. The authors identified artists with Alzheimer’s and noted that “they have been observed to produce artwork that declines in a fashion parallel to their decline in visuospatial, motivational, mnemonic, and organizational skills” (p.97). It can be inferred that this type of neurological degeneration might apply to Alzheimer’s disease as a whole. It is important when considering neurological deficits and its affects on daily life functioning in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, it accounts for 70% of dementia in elderly cases (Institute for Dementia and Research and Prevention, 2008). It is important to note that each form of dementia encompasses its unique qualities specific to the degenerative process. To explore the effect of this degenerative disease in an elderly artist, Safar and Press (2011) examined a 57-year-old women diagnosed with Corticobasal degeneration (CBD) “an uncommon form of dementia characterized by lesions in both the brain cortex and the subcortical structures” (p.97). Ms. B’s dementia began two years prior when she noticed her visuospatial functioning declining; she reported feeling dizzy and “off balance” and noted her images began to look “distorted.” Safar and Press (2011) began with a cognitive examination that revealed Ms. B fell in the high average range for general intellectual ability and had mild to moderate deficits in attention and executive functioning. Language skills were intact and comprehensive; however, her visuospatial memory was impaired (measurement tools are not otherwise specified). Ms. B was given several drawing tasks. The first task was to draw a clock with the arms the appropriate positioning (determined by therapist), and the second was to copy an image of a human figure. These simple, non-standardized assessments have been used for decades by physicians and others to assess cognitive abilities, orientation of lines, and spatial skills (Safar & Press, 2011). Upon completing the images Ms. B was unable to execute appropriate orientation of lines in space when recreating the human figure. She was also unable to recreate the image of the clock, and had difficulty creating a cube, and connecting three dots to create a triangle. Results show that Ms. B was well into the second stages of CBD (Safar & Press, 2011). Six months later Ms. B had declined drastically. She had developed severe apraxia in her left hand resulting in a disturbance in skilled movements and dexterity (Zadikoff, & Lang, 2005, cited in Safer & Press, 2011). Her vision continued to decline. For example, when given the task to identify the “letter A, comprised of smaller letter E’s” she was only able to identify the letter E (p. 98).…