Even as vascular dementia may leave artists struggling to complete simple, everyday tasks, the ability to draw spontaneously as well as from memory continues to be preserved in their brains, researchers at St. Michael's Hospital reveal.
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.