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NEWS | May 7, 2013

First UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center distinguished lecture to explore artistry in dementia

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

“Portraits of Artists with Dementia” is the topic of the first UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center Distinguished Lecture, to be presented by Bruce L. Miller, director of the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, on Thursday, May 23. The lecture will be presented from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the UC Davis MIND Institute, 2825 50th St., Sacramento. The discussion is free and open to the public; no reservations are required. 

Many individuals with dementia develop new artistic abilities and may show enhanced kindness and generosity in the early stages of their disease, Miller has found. Many individuals with dementia develop new artistic abilities and may show enhanced kindness and generosity in the early stages of their disease, Miller has found.

Miller is the A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor in Neurology at UC San Francisco. He is a behavioral neurologist whose work focuses on dementia, with a special emphasis on brain/behavior relationships, as well as the genetic and molecular underpinnings of disease. Dementia is the progressive loss of cognitive abilities required to complete the activities of daily living, and may have a variety of causes, including Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.

Miller has found that, despite declining health and language skills, some patients with dementia develop new artistic abilities. His discussion will focus on his experiences at UC San Francisco, where he has seen the emergence of creativity in the visual arts in individuals with dementia, as well as in music, gardening and mechanical design. He has found that some people with Alzheimer's disease show enhanced kindness and generosity in the early stages of the illness. In those who are healthy and aging, he sees increased wisdom, generosity, compassion and altruism.

Miller also oversees a healthy aging program supported through the Hellman Visiting Artists Program, created to foster dialogue between scientists, caregivers, patients, clinicians and the public regarding creativity and the brain. Each year an accomplished artist, musician, writer or otherwise creative individual becomes a visiting artist, learning about neurodegenerative disorders and sharing his or her experiences through a public performance.

The next Alzheimer’s Disease Center Distinguished Lecture will be held on Thursday, Oct. 24 and will feature Claudia Kawas, the Al and Trish Nichols Chair in Clinical Neuroscience and professor of neurology and neurobiology & behavior at UC Irvine.

All of the distriguished lectures will feature information about the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center and healthy aging. For further information about the lectures, please contact Jayne LaGrande, center administrator, at 916-734-5728.

The UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center is one of only 27 research centers designated by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Aging. The center's goal is to translate research advances into improved diagnosis and treatment for patients while focusing on the long-term goal of finding a way to prevent or cure Alzheimer's disease. Also funded by the state of California, the center allows researchers to study the effects of the disease on a uniquely diverse population. For more information, visit alzheimer.ucdavis.edu.