Changes in Painting Patterns May Be Sign of Alzheimer’s Before Symptoms Occur

Changes in Painting Patterns May Be Sign of Alzheimer’s Before Symptoms Occur
Researchers have used a novel approach to identify changes in painting patterns that could signal an artist is developing Alzheimer’s disease or another neurodegenerative condition before symptoms show. The team used fractal analysis to look at seven painters' "artistic fingerprints" over time. Because the changes may occur before cognitive impairment shows up, fractal analysis could be an early indicator of dementia in artists and perhaps others. The study, “What Paint Can Tell Us: A Fractal Analysis of Neurological Changes in Seven Artists,” analyzed the work of seven well-known artists: Willem De Kooning and James Brooks had Alzheimer’s disease, Salvador Dalí and Norval Morrisseau had Parkinson’s disease, and Marc Chagall, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso aged normally. The work was published in the journal Neuropsychology. Fractals are mathematical descriptions of repeating patterns. Because the patterns can be found in natural phenomena, ranging from snowflakes to mountains, they are sometimes referred to as the fingerprints of nature. But they are also present in works of art. The fractal dimension in art is a measure of how completely a pattern fills a space. This can be charted. Researchers at the University of Liverpool in the U.K., Maynooth University in Ireland, and the Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Trust analyzed 2,092 images of the seven artists. They found that changes in painting patterns occurred with age among healthy artists, but the
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