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Surprising Science

How Creativity Emerges Late in Life

As we age, the brain degenerates. When this occurs, the channels of communication form different pathways, usually unlocking different ways of recalling and expressing memories.

What’s the Latest Development?

Pop psychology’s division of the brain into left and right hemispheres does not fully recognize the complexity of the organ’s communication channels. “Our ability to communicate relies primarily on the use of verbal and writing skills, which are then lost when cognitive skills decline. But, creative arts like music or painting can bypass the ‘verbal pathways’ and access other pathways that become available for communication. … Dementia preferentially attacks the frontal and temporal parts of the brain at first, only involving the “artistic” parietal and occipital lobes later in the disease.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Many of us who care for loved ones with neurological diseases mistakenly believe we have already lost them. “We find ourselves mistakenly believing that our relative who suffers from Alzheimer’s is no longer capable of experiencing joy or communicating their emotions, so we define them by their disease rather than by who they are in their now. Expressive arts therapies incorporate a wide range of opportunities for people to communicate, including music, art, drama, poetry, and storytelling. The expressive arts offer a new channel of communication and increase people’s ability to tell their story.”

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