Skip main navigation

Profiles in Paint: An introduction

In this video visual artist Charlie Harrison describes how his project 'Profiles in Paint' came about.
I started collaborating with Seb Crutch, the project director and researchers at the Dementia Research Centre, and that work started off with an initial collaboration just between Seb and myself and then led into some funding through the Dementia Research Centre, which led into the project Profiles in Paint. So we worked with people with four different diagnoses of dementia, which were behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, typical Alzheimer’s disease, posterior cortical atrophy, and semantic dementia. We also worked with four healthy participants, as well. Each person was visited at their homes and presented with a range of 12 objects. And then we asked them in their own space and time to arrange those objects and make a painting of those arrangements.
And so the idea was that those paintings might tell us about the different experiences of each of those different types of dementia.

In this video visual artist Charlie Harrison describes how his project Profiles in Paint came about.

The project led him to work with four individuals living with four different dementia diagnoses: typical Alzheimer’s disease, behavioural variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD), posterior cortical atrophy, and semantic dementia (SD). Each of the artists had a similar level of interest in art-making and volunteered to take part in the project as a way to communicate experiences of different dementias.

Typical Alzheimer’s disease (tAD)

Typical Alzheimer’s disease is most commonly associated with deterioration in memory, language, perception and a host of other skills and abilities, caused by the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. In typical Alzheimer’s disease, disease-related changes are evident across most brain areas, and are not localised to specific lobes. Therefore a range of abilities can be affected.

Behavioural variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD)

Frontotemporal Dementia is a form of dementia that usually affects cognitive functions such as behaviour and personality, with relatively few memory problems at the outset. It is a group of conditions caused by loss of cells mainly in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. The main symptoms are a progressive change in personality and behaviour or progressive deterioration in language abilities. It can affect both men and women and usually starts in the 40’s, 50’s or 60’s. However it can also affect older people, and rarely, even younger people. It was originally described by Arnold Pick in 1892 after whom it was named. Most doctors now prefer to reserve the name ‘Pick’s disease’ for just one of the types of changes in the brain tissue that may be seen with the disease.

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA)

Posterior cortical atrophy is a progressive degenerative condition involving the loss and dysfunction of brain cells particularly at the back (posterior) of the brain. PCA is most usually considered to be an unusual or atypical variant of Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with posterior cortical atrophy tend to have well preserved memory and language but instead show a progressive, dramatic and relatively selective decline in vision and/or literacy skills such as spelling, writing and arithmetic.

Semantic dementia (SD)

Semantic dementia is a kind of primary progressive aphasia – the term used for a group of dementias in which loss of speech and language abilities is the leading and most prominent problem. ‘Aphasia’ refers to a neurological language problem; ‘progressive’, becoming worse over time; and ‘primary’, due to brain tissue changes rather than an external cause. In SD, there is a loss of vocabulary and ability to understand spoken and written words (though speech itself is fluent), and ability to recognise people and objects also becomes affected.

CREDITS We would like to extend a special thank you to the Dementia Research Centre for providing supplementary footage for this video.
This article is from the free online

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

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education