Art at the MAC
The Memory and Aging Center hosts a gallery of rotating exhibits as well as a visiting artist program.

Neuroscience research in the past several decades has increased the understanding of human brain functions particularly emotion, perception, and behavior. An integral component of the Memory and Aging Center’s research mission is to understand various complex functions of the brain. As such, many individuals at the Memory and Aging Center are fascinated by the creative brain and hope to gain a greater understanding of the creative mind.

Creativity is our species’ natural response to the challenges of human experience.

Adriana Diaz

From the study of individuals with dementia and autism, we have seen the loss of function in certain areas of the brain seem to "release" previously dormant cognitive abilities in other areas of the brain with amazing results. The Memory and Aging Center has met individuals who never created art before becoming ill and are now making wonderful, intriguing artwork in the face of their illnesses. While the focus of the online gallery is visual art, there are other reports of people creating music as well.

Some individuals, usually diagnosed with semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (a language variant of frontotemporal dementia), develop new artistic skills in the setting of their illness. One explanation for this phenomenon is that other parts of the brain take over to compensate for another brain area that is no longer working. Therefore, visual expressions such as a drawing, painting or sculpture appear as the person loses their capability for verbal language. By studying the behavioral changes in frontotemporal dementia, we hope to gain understanding in the neuropsychology of creativity as well.

Furthermore, the ability to communicate with friends and family, even if without words, can bring a sense of comfort to those who knew the person before they became ill. The production of art can be enjoyed and shared with others, as well as rewarding to the individual and their caregivers.