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Art and Brain Damage

July 17, 2007

Brain damage sometimes has a suprisingly positive effect on artists’ work.


Can brain damage improve art? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For a few artists, their greatest influence may be not an inspiring mentor, but a brain injury. University of Pennsylvania neurologist Anjan Chatterjee studies the effects of brain damage on visual art.

ANJAN CHATTERJEE (University of Pennsylvania):
What’s striking about some cases is that people’s art changes, and changes in a way that at least some critics think may be for the better, or if they’re different, at least equally interesting.

For example, a stroke forced one artist to paint with her left hand, resulting in freer, more flowing brushstrokes and greater critical and commercial success. Another produced emotionally expressive, Picasso-like portraits after brain damage impaired her ability to draw realistically. Chatterjee says cases like these could help scientists tease apart the neurological underpinnings of creativity. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.