Paintings Reveal Signs of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's In Famous Artists

Researchers from the University of Liverpool believe it is possible to detect cognitive decline in the paintings of famous artists by analyzing subtle changes in their brush strokes over time. The technique may one day be used to flag Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in artists before they’re diagnosed. Gizmodo reports: A new study published in Neuropsychology shows that a mathematical technique known as “fractal analysis” can be used to detect signs of neurodegeneration in an artist’s work. A research team led by Alex Forsythe from the University of Liverpool’s School of Psychology made the discovery by examining 2,092 paintings from the careers of seven famous artists who experienced either normal aging or neurodegenerative disorders. Using fractal analysis, the researchers were able to identify complex geometric patterns in the brushstrokes of each artist. Fractals can reveal hidden and often self-repeating patterns in everyday objects and phenomena. These distinctive geometrical shapes are like fingerprints, allowing scientists to match an artist with his or her work. With this in mind, Forsythe’s team sought to learn if variations in an artist’s fractal fingerprint over time are a function of increasing age, or if neurological decline has something to do with it. For the study, the researchers examined paintings from four artists known to have suffered from either Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, namely Salvadore Dali, Norval Morrisseau, James Brooks, and Willem De Kooning. The researchers also studied the works of three artists who had no known neurodegenerative problems: Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet. Fractal analysis demonstrated clear patterns of change among the artists who suffered neurological deterioration compared to those who aged normally. In all cases, the fractal fingerprints changed, but the fractal dimensions produced by the Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s artists showed consistent patterns that were distinguishable from the healthy group.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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