Massachusetts artist Diane Lamb-Wanucha (1953-2011) painted a self-portrait during the late stages of dementia. Her particular form of brain disease, called frontotemporal degeneration, affects the brain's cerebellum, anterior insula, thalamus, and anterior cingulate cortex. These structures partly comprise a key brain network dubbed the 'salience network,' involved in self-awareness, insight, and emotional control. This self-portrait seems to challenge these assumptions about the reach of such damage, by presenting proof of a preserved self and ongoing personal narrative in the midst of debilitating symptoms of dementia. Her daughter captures people gazing at this painting when it was on display in the Art of Alzheimer’s exhibit in Seattle. Together, these images may force one to reflect on pervasive stereotypes of people with dementia as absent and devoid of self-knowledge, hopefully encouraging connection and engagement with people living with dementia, in recognition of personhood.
This art was on display at the recent Art Neureau exhibit, a neuroscience-themed art show curated by UW graduate students in neuroscience.