Flipping the Switch
Dementia alters specific parts of the brain differently. It can bring “right brain” creative impulses that have always been present, but dormant, to the fore, research has found. At the same time, some people lose the inhibitions and “judgy” parts of the brain that once might have silenced their inner artist. And the arts can still tap deep emotions. Dementia patients “lose something, but they find something else,” says Mary Mittelman, a research professor at New York University.
“Different parts of the brain can still be accessed—you just have to find what they connect to,” says Berna Huebner, who co-directed the groundbreaking documentary I Remember Better When I Paint, which features her own mother.
“Her lights are off” is how a doctor described a sullen, withdrawn Hilda Gorenstein. Huebner suggested her mom try painting, an abandoned old love. “Yes, I remember better when I paint,” she replied—and went on to create hundreds of amazing canvases.