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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May, 2005, 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Stroke can change artist's style
Paintbrushes
Neurological damage can have an effect
The brain damage wrought by a minor stroke can alter the way artists paint, a study suggests.

A team from Switzerland's Lausanne University Hospital studied the impact of having a stroke on the style of two professional painters.

They recorded profound changes to the artists' colour palette and the level of detail they depicted in their work.

The research is published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

This study is a fascinating insight into some of the ways in which the effects of stroke can manifest
Dr Joanne Knight
One of the artists had a stroke in the left occipital lobe of the brain, associated with the processing of mental imagery.

The other had a stroke in the limbic thalamus, connected to the frontal lobes, which are involved in creativity.

Expert judges

Having a stroke had no impact on either artists' choice of subject matter when they resumed work.

But there were distinct changes in style, as judged by an art critic and a professional painter.

In the first case - a 57-year-old right hander who had a stroke in the occipital lobe - the depiction of human limbs became thinner, sharper, and more stylised, while details became simplified.

More light was deployed in his work, which also became more abstract.

The painter admitted that whereas, before his stroke, he had lain down and visualised the canvas for an hour before beginning to paint, he could no longer do this.

Instead, he said his inspiration came a little at a time once he had started painting.

The second case was a 71-year-old who was ambidextrous, but had used his right hand more than his left before the stroke.

This reversed afterwards, and more structure and linear organisation, bolder colours and contrasts featured in his work.

He switched from figurative to more realistic depictions.

Neurological damage

The researchers say that other neurological damage can also have an impact.

Dementia and Alzheimer's disease have been shown in some patients to change emotional expression and artistic creativity.

Dr Joanne Knight, associate director of research and development at The Stroke Association, said: "This study is a fascinating insight into some of the ways in which the effects of stroke can manifest.

"However, these effects can vary from person to person, and are determined by which part of the brain has been affected.

"As well as physical symptoms such as weakness and paralysis, strokes can result in psychological changes that affect a person's perception and their emotional responses.

"These changes are caused by physical damage to the brain and how an individual reacts to the often devastating and long-term effects of the condition."

Every year over 130,000 people are affected by stroke in England and Wales, and a quarter of a million people are living with long-term disabilities as a result of the condition.


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