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Benefits of art for people living with dementia in focus

MCAA new collaboration between the Brain and Mind Centre, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and Alzheimer’s Australia NSW will lead a groundbreaking study on the impact of art on people living with dementia.

Head of the Centre’s Healthy Brain Ageing Program, Professor Sharon Naismith, said the study would examine the impact that learning art can have on the brain, particularly visuospatial cognitive skills and memory.

“Creating and viewing art has long been associated with improvement in mood, socialisation and reminiscence, and quality of life.

“However, there has been no substantial research to date, to evaluate art’s impact on cognitive performance, and therefore if art can have a beneficial impact on people living with dementia,” Professor Naismith said.

The MCA runs an Art & Dementia Program which offers creative hands-on activities for people with dementia.

The Healthy Brain Ageing team will study 120 participants, aged under 75 and living with dementia, as they participate in a 10 week combined MCA facilitated and at-home art program.

“We’ll examine improvements on neuropsychological markers of visuospatial functioning, and examine the relationship between memory and learning in adults with dementia compared with a waitlist control condition.”

Professor Naismith said the collaboration was an exciting opportunity to understand the potential of community-based art programs for people living with dementia.

“As well as the clinical predictors of benefit associated with an art program, we’ll look to determine whether the program is associated with improvement in general wellbeing for people living with dementia and reduce the burden for their carers,” she said.

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