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This content is taken from the UCL (University College London) & Created Out of Mind's online course, Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds I spent an afternoon at the Balance Lab at University College London, which is usually used for patients with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders, neurological movement disorders. And I met a man with an unusual form of dementia, PCA, posterior cortical atrophy. And Edward Osmotherly, a really delightful man, was hooked up to a number of monitors and was asked to go and paint a yellow line on a canvas. And he did this many times for us and for the team there. And the point of it was partly to see just what somebody– people who have PCA often have problems in how their perception of the outside world– so maybe walking across the street and recognising faces– spatial awareness can be a problem.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds And part of the research is trying to work out what people with PCA– how they perceive the simple thing of painting a yellow line across a canvas. So he did that many times for us. And I also spoke to Charlie Harrison, who’s artist in residence here at Created Out of Mind, and asked him, what is the point of this? And in a sense, it’s one of those things, it’s kind of blue sky. We don’t really know what it’s going to tell us until later on because they’ve done this experiment with a lot of people, and they’ve also done it with people who are unaffected, with healthy controls.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds But it’s a crossover I think between art and science, where you’re in a science lab and yet as soon as you dip a brush into a paint pot and then apply it onto a canvas, it then becomes art in a way that almost any other experiment wouldn’t. So is it art? Is it science? Or is it a bit of both? And I’m still pondering that. But it was wonderful talking to Edward, and there was a wonderful point with him because he was a very amusing chap– telling jokes and talking about the sort of problems that he was having. And I said, well, what are the key issues for you when it comes to dealing with dementia?

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds And he said, I have three points. And my heart always sinks when somebody says they have three points because we normally get to two and then the third one might get lost. So he said, “The first point is we need more research. And the second point is we need greater awareness of dementia. And the third point I’ve forgotten because I’ve got dementia.” And he burst out laughing and everybody in the room burst out laughing, and that is what I’m talking about, some of the humour that can be retained and the positive attitude that can help. Now I’m not in any sense trying to undermine what is a most dreadful condition.

Skip to 3 minutes and 12 seconds But it was lovely meeting somebody who still retained a very positive attitude to life despite a progressive condition that was taking gradually away his mind.

Single Yellow Lines: is it science, is it art, or is it both?

Watch this video to learn about an example of an exploratory research project where both science and the arts have been combined at UCL’s Sensorimotor Lab in collaboration with Created Out of Mind.

One of the outcomes of this is that it is making us think about the language that we use when talking about the work. Fergus also explains how it is making us question what label we put on the findings - will it be science, or art, or will it simply be both.

Do you think that combining science with arts-based practices could prove useful in helping us to understand the experience of living with dementia? In the next step you will learn about another research project which combines both disciplines.

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This video is from the free online course:

Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

UCL (University College London)