chapter  2
26 Pages

The effects of brain damage in established visual artists

Introduction Neurological cases of professional artists who have suffered known brain injury provide the richest source for understanding the components of art and the underlying neuroanatomy. While well-characterized neural and functional model systems are available in neuropsychology, very few initial steps in the establishment of art-brain models have been taken. Artists with a sudden focal brain injury, such as stroke, are ultimately the most revealing about the brain's control in art production. Similarly, exploring cases of professional artists who developed slow yet irreversible brain diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Lewy bodies dementia, progressive brain atrophy, or corticobasal degeneration, is equally critical for further understanding. Such cases of professional artists are exceptionally rare. Of those, most are in the visual arts. Synthesizing the available published information is hampered somewhat by several factors including, first, some of the early reports were published before the days of neuroimaging. Second, examples of artists' work are typically limited or absent altogether in some of the publications. Third, in the majority, little is known from the immediate post-damage period, a time when the brain's reaction to the damage is still "raw", to say nothing of the ensuing few months. Fourth, the reports illustrate the fact that there are no neuropsychological measures designed specifically to test deficits in art production or appreciation, not surprisingly given that the particulars in the vocabulary of art have not been thoroughly defined. Finally, not all published cases were administered standard reliable neuropsychological tests. The full range of behavioral symptoms, particularly concerning aphasia, is not always provided. The best that can be accomplished in clarifying the neuropsychology of art is to compare post-damage productions against already known neuropsychological effects.