Analysing a person's painting strokes may help detect Alzheimer's risk: study

29 December 2016, 02:05 PM
Analysing a person's painting strokes may help detect Alzheimer's risk: study
Analysing a person's painting strokes may help detect Alzheimer's risk: study

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

Analysing a person's painting strokes may help detect the risk of neuro degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers from University of Liverpool in the UK examined 2,092 paintings from the careers of seven famous artists who experienced both normal ageing and neuro degenerative 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 neuro degenerative disorders (MarcChagall, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet).

The brush strokes 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 'fingerprintsof nature'. They can be found in natural phenomena such as clouds, snowflakes, trees, rivers and mountains.

This method has alsobeen 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 remaincomparable. The results were examined to see if the variations in anartist's unique 'fractals' in their work over their careerwere due to them just increasing in age or because of ongoing cognitive deterioration.

"Art has long been embraced by psychologists an effectivemethod of improving the quality of life for those personsliving with cognitive disorders," said Dr Alex Forsythe fromthe university's School of Psychology.

"We have built on this tradition by unpicking artists 'handwriting' through the analysis of their individualconnection with the brush and paint. This process offers thepotential for the detection of emerging neurologicalproblems," said Forsythe.

"We hope that our innovation may open up new researchdirections that will help to diagnose neurological disease inthe early stages," Forsythe added. The study was published in the journal Neuropsychology.