A fresh perspective

An arts program is trying to change the way people perceive memory loss.

Created Out of Mind uses the arts to tackle stereotypes and misconceptions of living with dementia as well as develop better tools to assess its impact.

Specifically, the U.K.-based program aims to confront the idea that arts are simply busywork for maintaining cognitive skills. Art is a means of communication and a channel for creative expression that bypasses words. Creating art can help those with dementia maintain their personhood and serve as a form of personal enrichment.

“Because we focus so much on the verbal, there’s an underlying lack of clarity about what these people actually experience when they can’t tell us anymore,” says program director Sebastian Crutch to The Guardian. “The arts are a powerful vehicle for helping everybody to understand more of the complexity and diversity of people’s experiences and to adjust ourselves to better maintain our social contact.

“Again and again, we come across people who say: what really helped us to understand this person was connecting through music, or sharing in a response to a picture, or a (caregiver) seeing someone who can still create something. It can still be about who they are, not just who they were.”

One of the team’s project, Music for Life 360, uses machine learning to analyze interactions between musicians and people with dementia to help researchers find new ways to measure engagement and its effects.

Another project, Single Yellow Lines, explores personal expression through gestures. Participants paint two separate lines on a pair of canvases. The first task is to paint the straightest line possible. The second is to create an expressive line of their choice. As participants work, researchers gather and analyze data about their heart rate, eye movement and temporal experience.

Read more about the program and its research here.

Related: Memory masterpieces

             Painting a picture of dementia

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia