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Paintings Reveal Early Signs of Cognitive Decline

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  • Portrait of the artist can shed light on how neurodegenerative diseases can be spotted years before other life-changing symptoms come to the fore.
  • New research could help diagnose early signs of dementia.
  • Dementia is more than just memory loss.

Paintings Reveal Early Signs of Cognitive Decline

Artists' paint strokes have the potential to reveal whether they might go on to develop neurodegenerative disorder.

2092 paintings from the careers of seven famous artists who experienced both normal aging and neurodegenerative disorders were examined by psychologist Dr Alex Forsythe from the University's School of Psychology and her team, working with Dr Tamsin Williams of Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Trust, Vale of York and Maynooth University, Ireland.


Use of Fractal Analyses to Analyze Brushstrokes

Fractal analyses method was used to analyze the brushstrokes of the paintings. Fractals are mathematical characterizations of self-repeating patterns. They are often described as "fingerprints of nature". Fractal method is used to determine the authenticity of artworks. Although painters use different style, the fractal dimension in which they operate should remain comparable.

Study Results

Of the seven artists -
  • Salvador Dali and Norval Morrisseau had suffered from Parkinson's disease.
  • James Brooks and Willem De Kooning had suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
  • Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet had no reported neurodegenerative disorders.
Patterns of Change

Patterns of change were observed in the fractal dimension of the paintings differentiated artists who suffered neurological deterioration from those aging normally.

Dr Alex Forsythe, said: "Art has long been embraced by psychologists an effective method of improving the quality of life for those persons living with cognitive disorders. We have built on this tradition by unpicking artists 'handwriting' through the analysis of their individual connection with the brush and paint. This process offers the potential for the detection of emerging neurological problems. We hope that our innovation may open up new research directions that will help to diagnose neurological disease in the early stages".

Dementia - Facts
  • Dementia itself is not a disease - but its an umbrella term used to describe symptoms caused by diseases such as memory loss, confusion. Alzheimer's is the most common cause.
  • Dementia is more than just memory loss.
  • It has bigger impact on women - a woman's estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer's at age 65 is 1 in 6 compared to 1 in 11 for a man.
  • It is a global issue.
  • There are no treatments to stop diseases that cause dementia.
Alzheimer's Disease - Facts and Statistics
  • 44 million people across the globe are affected with Alzheimer's disease and this may double up to nearly 76 million by 2030.
  • It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's disease.
Parkinson's Disease - Facts and Statistics
  • It is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer's disease.
  • 6.3 million people are living with Parkinson's disease (PD) worldwide.
  • 3 out of 5 Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease.
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely to develop PD than women.
  • Deep brain stimulation therapy is used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
  • There is no cure for Parkinson's disease.
  • TRAP - Tremor, Rigidity, Akinesia (slow movement) and stooped Posture are the common symptoms.
Source: Medindia

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