UCSF frontotemporal dementia Patient’s Remarkable Artistic Journey Profiled by Radiolab

Radiolab, public radio’s award winning, science-focused show, recently explored the creative explosion that sometimes occurs in frontotemporal dementia patients, particularly those with primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

Host Jad Abumrad details the story of Dr. Anne Adams, a biologist diagnosed with PPA who became increasingly enraptured by painting as her disease progressed. One of her most notable works is the stunning “Unraveling Bolero,” in which she visually illustrates French composer Maurice Ravel’s compulsively repetitive “Bolero.” Ironically, Ravel, who died in 1937, is also believed to have been afflicted with PPA.

Dr. Adams, who died in 2007, was a patient of Consortium for Frontotemporal Dementia Research (CFR) Clinical Director Dr. Bruce Miller, who is featured on the show. Dr. Miller postulated that as Dr. Adams’ speech and language functions were destroyed by her disease, new creative abilities were liberated in unaffected brain regions. Dr. Adams' disease progression and coincident artistic development were reported by Dr. Miller and CFR Investigator Dr. Bill Seeley in this 2008 scientific paper and described in this 2008 New York Times article.

To listen to Radiolab's podcast, entitled "Unraveling Bolero," click here.