HEALTH

Alzheimer's Disease Can Unlock Creative Abilities

Researchers have found the evidence that singing and art skills can improve with the disease.

26/07/2016 11:35 AM AEST | Updated 26/07/2016 7:10 PM AEST
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While it's been known anecdotally for some time, a study has shown creative skills can improve with Alzheimer's.

It's a disease that robs people of their memories, but new research shows the onset of Alzheimer's disease can also be the beginning of a newfound creative skill.

Researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia found some people with Alzheimer's disease and frontotemporal dementia suddenly had creative skills like painting, drawing, or singing which were not previously evident.

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Singing abilities in people with dementia have anecdotally been seen, but now there's evidence.

While anecdotal accounts of this phenomena were nothing new to people working in aged care, lead author Olivier Piguety said no one had studied it before.

"Our study shows that individuals with dementia can display new creative behaviours and skills despite also experiencing the cognitive and functional decline that is typical of dementia," Piguet said.

The study took data from a questionairre of 185 carers and Piguet said that while it wasn't clear exactly why the disease unlocked these skills, it could have something to do with the the often-used areas of the brain shutting down, allowing for other parts to shine.

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As one part of the brain atrophies, another part shines.

"Brain atrophy is relatively focal at the beginning. However, as the disease progresses and the atrophy becomes more diffuse, it can result in the release of 'spared' functions supported by brain regions that are less affected.

"Music activities, for instance, appear to rely on widespread brain networks where brain pathology is not as severe as the regions supporting other cognitive activities, such as memory or language, that tend to decline markedly in people with dementia."

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