Can paint strokes help identify Alzheimer's?

December 29, 2016

A new University of Liverpool study published today (29 December 2016) in Neuropsychology shows that it may be possible to detect neurodegenerative disorders in artists before they are diagnosed.

Psychologist Dr Alex Forsythe from the University's School of Psychology and her team, working with Dr Tamsin Williams of Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Trust, Vale of York and Maynooth University, Ireland, examined 2092 paintings from the careers of seven famous artists who experienced both normal ageing and neurodegenerative disorders.

Of the seven, two had suffered from Parkinson's disease (Salvador Dali and Norval Morrisseau), two had suffered from Alzheimer's disease (James Brooks and Willem De Kooning) and three had no recorded neurodegenerative disorders (Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet).

Fractal analyses

The brushstrokes of each of the paintings were analysed using a method of applying non-traditional mathematics to patterns known as 'Fractal' analyses to identify complex geometric patterns.

Fractals are mathematical characterisations of self-repeating patterns often described as the 'fingerprints of nature'. They can be found in natural phenomena such as clouds, snowflakes, trees, rivers, and mountains. This method has also been used to determine the authenticity of major works of art.

Although painters work within a different style or genre, the fractal dimension in which they operate should remain comparable.

Patterns of change

The results were examined to see if the variations in an artist's unique 'fractals' in their work over their career were due to them just increasing in age or because of ongoing cognitive deterioration.

The study showed clear patterns of change in the fractal dimension of the paintings differentiated artists who suffered neurological deterioration from those aging normally.

Dr Alex Forsythe, said: "Art has long been embraced by psychologists an effective method of improving the quality of life for those persons living with cognitive disorders.

"We have built on this tradition by unpicking artists 'handwriting' through the analysis of their individual connection with the brush and paint. This process offers the potential for the detection of emerging neurological problems.

"We hope that our innovation may open up new research directions that will help to diagnose neurological disease in the early stages"
-end-
The paper, entitled 'What paint can tell us: a fractal analysis of neurological changes in seven artists', can be found here once the embargo has lifted.

University of Liverpool

Related Aging Articles from Brightsurf:

Surprises in 'active' aging
Aging is a process that affects not only living beings.

Aging-US: 'From Causes of Aging to Death from COVID-19' by Mikhail V. Blagosklonny
Aging-US recently published ''From Causes of Aging to Death from COVID-19'' by Blagosklonny et al. which reported that COVID-19 is not deadly early in life, but mortality increases exponentially with age - which is the strongest predictor of mortality.

Understanding the effect of aging on the genome
EPFL scientists have measured the molecular footprint that aging leaves on various mouse and human tissues.

Muscle aging: Stronger for longer
With life expectancy increasing, age-related diseases are also on the rise, including sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass due to aging.

Aging memories may not be 'worse, 'just 'different'
A study from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences adds nuance to the idea that an aging memory is a poor one and finds a potential correlation between the way people process the boundaries of events and episodic memory.

A new biomarker for the aging brain
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research (BDR) in Japan have identified changes in the aging brain related to blood circulation.

Scientists invented an aging vaccine
A new way to prevent autoimmune diseases associated with aging like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease was described in the article.

The first roadmap for ovarian aging
Infertility likely stems from age-related decline of the ovaries, but the molecular mechanisms that lead to this decline have been unclear.

Researchers discover new cause of cell aging
New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works.

Deep Aging Clocks: The emergence of AI-based biomarkers of aging and longevity
The advent of deep biomarkers of aging, longevity and mortality presents a range of non-obvious applications.

Read More: Aging News and Aging Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.