Acquired Savantism in Neurological Conditions
Visual artistic creativity has been a continual component of human life from the earliest days. Patients with neurodegenerative disease have shown both increased and novel artistic creativity in the face of disease. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD), where the posterior default mode network atrophies, the decline in visuospatial skills tends to lead to more abstract representation and muted color choices. William Utermohlen’s self-portrait series illustrates this progression. On the other hand, frontotemporal dementia (FTD), affects the more frontal salience network and socioemotional systems. The artwork by these patients is often brightly colorful with people or animals in atypical arrangements, reflecting the diminished social or semantic awareness of people and objects in their environment. In patients with left-sided atrophy, decreased language ability may disinhibit the expression of previously dampened visuospatial skills based in the right brain.