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Why Are Alzheimer's Patients More Creative than They Were Before?

Why Are Alzheimer's Patients More Creative than They Were Before?

Anyone who has seen The Notebook knows that Alzheimer’s is a difficult disease to live with for both the patient and the patient’s loved ones. However, while a patient's language skills and memory gradually disappear, creative skills actually do not. Instead, studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients have more creative skills than they did before.

According to a recent study by the Neuroscience Research Australia, many patients who experience the traditional symptoms of Alzheimer’s also express themselves more creatively than they have before. In fact, patients who were not particularly creative before developing Alzheimer’s showed sudden and tremendous skill in things like painting, drawing, and singing after they developed the disease.

This study, conducted by Olivier Piquety, showed that the traditional symptoms, like cognitive and functional decline, exist concurrently with new creative behaviors and skills. There is currently no clear-cut answer as to why this happens, although Piquety hypothesizes that these newfound skills develop because new sections of the brain are being used. Once parts of the brain begin to shut down, the body relies on areas that they haven't used before, this can include the area of the brain that brings out creativity.

Piquety isn’t the only person who feels this way. Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist and director for the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, located in San Francisco, has found research that also suggests the idea that these creative functions develop as other skills are forgotten.

Dr. Miller has done a lot of work with people who are affected with savant syndrome, which is a condition where a patient with profound mental disabilities exhibits incredibly high aptitude in certain areas, like artistic skills, musical ability, and rapid calculation.

In a recent CBS Sunday Morning newscast, Dr. Miller compared some brain scans of people living with dementia to brain scans of a child savant. He suggested that the brain scans may have more to do with each other than previously believed.

“We are seeing the same pattern of loss on the left side of the brain [with] increased function in the right posterior parts of the brain, the parts that allow us to take something visual in our mind and put it on a canvas,” Miller explained.