A Disease That Allowed Torrents of Creativity.

Article: Blakeslee, S. (2008). “A Disease That Allowed Torrents of Creativity.” NY Times. Visited on 8 April 2008


This article gives an account of Anne Adams experience with the degenerative brain disease, frontotemporal dementia (FTP). The disease, whose cause is as of yet unknown, leads to the degeneration of the frontal temporal lobe.

Three variants of the disease have been identified based on the types of behavioral changes exhibited in the patient.  The first is characterized by personality changes such as increased apathy, loss of motivation for personal care, and weight gain. The two other variants deal with language control. In one case the patient experiences a loss of language while in the other the spoken language network disintegrates such that the patient is no longer able to speak.

Anna Adams had the third variant known as primary progressive aphasia (PPA). In Anna’s case, as one part of her brain deteriorated another portion strengthened in order to compensate/ or as a result of the nutrient availability/ or ???. From Anna’s and other patient’s cases, doctors have learned that “that when dominant circuits are injured or disintegrate, they may release or disinhibit activity in other areas. In other words, if one part of the brain is compromised, another part can remodel and become stronger” (pg 2).

As the frontal language areas of Anna’s brain deteriorated, the regions devoted to visual and spatial processing, thickened Anna underwent an artistic revolution of sorts. She left her life of science and teaching behind in order to devout herself to painting. Interestingly enough, during this time she became fascinated with and began painting the music of a composer by the name or Maurice Ravel. His work and her subsequent paintings were characterized by strong degree of repetition. Unbeknownst to Anna, Ravel also suffered from the same variant of FTD.

Upon examination of the effects of FTD, one may infer that the frontal temporal lobe plays a large role in linguistic perception processing. While the patient’s perception tools (ears and mouth) are not impaired they may lose the ability to speak all together.

It also seems that the frontal temporal lobe is involved in social processing.

Patients display a decreased social ability and what seems like purposeful disruptive behavior.  Obsessive behavior is also demonstrated by the degree of repetition in the art of both Ravel and Adams.

  1 comment for “A Disease That Allowed Torrents of Creativity.

  1. April 29, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Nice summary. What would this group of product users need in terms of support? What scaffoldings would work for them? As we discussed in class, all three subtypes of FTP deal with language impairment—the loss of the “inner dialogue” results in the inability to control impulses.

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