Emergence of artistic talent in frontotemporal dementia

Neurology. 1998 Oct;51(4):978-82. doi: 10.1212/wnl.51.4.978.


Objective: To describe the clinical, neuropsychological, and imaging features of five patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) who acquired new artistic skills in the setting of dementia.

Background: Creativity in the setting of dementia has recently been reported. We describe five patients who became visual artists in the setting of FTD.

Methods: Sixty-nine FTD patients were interviewed regarding visual abilities. Five became artists in the early stages of FTD. Their history, artistic process, neuropsychology, and anatomy are described.

Results: On SPECT or pathology, four of the five patients had the temporal variant of FTD in which anterior temporal lobes are involved but the dorsolateral frontal cortex is spared. Visual skills were spared but language and social skills were devastated.

Conclusions: Loss of function in the anterior temporal lobes may lead to the "facilitation" of artistic skills. Patients with the temporal lobe variant of FTD offer a window into creativity.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Art*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Creativity*
  • Dementia / diagnostic imaging
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Dementia / psychology*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Photography
  • Temporal Lobe / physiopathology*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon