Fractal analysis reveals early signs of cognitive decline in paintings

Woman 5 - Willem De Kooning (1952)
Woman 5 – Willem De Kooning (1952)

Psychologist Dr Alex Forsythe from the University of Liverpool has examined 2092 paintings of seven famous artists for changes in the fractal dimension in ther paintings as they age. 1
The analyzed artists were:

  • Salvador Dali and Norval Morrisseau (who suffered from Parkinson’s disease)
  • James Brooks and Willem de Kooning (who suffered from Alzheimers disease
  • Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasse and Claude Monet (no known cognitive disease)

 

 

privileged untitled XX de kooning - Fractal analysis reveals early signs of cognitive decline in paintings
De Kooning – Privileged Untitled XX (1985)

According to Dr Forsythe changes in the fractal dimension became noticeable when the artists were in their 40ies, long before other signs of the disease could be diagnosed.

Though the findings are unlikely to lead to a early test for dementia, it might lead to new approaches in investigating the desease.

1.
Forsythe A, Williams T, Reilly RG. What paint can tell us: A fractal analysis of neurological changes in seven artists. Neuropsychology. 2017;31(1):1-10. doi: 10.1037/neu0000303

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