Painting Your Way to Stroke Recovery

Art appreciation improves stroke patient life quality

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Art lovers may have an advantage when it comes to recovering from a stroke. Stroke survivors with an appreciation for music, painting or theater tend to have a significantly increased quality of life.

The findings indicated stroke patients who appreciate the arts also are more likely to experience a stronger recovery as compared to stroke patients who are not art lovers.

"Incorporate arts such as symphony performances into your stroke recovery."

Dr. Ercole Vellone, lead study author and an assistant professor in nursing science at the University Tor Vergata in Italy, said that pinpointing strategies to improve recovery and quality of life for stroke patients is a priority, and that art exposure appears to be a promising avenue.

During the study researchers interviewed 192 stroke survivors over the age of 70. The participants were asked whether or not they liked music, painting and theater. Investigators then compared the quality of life between the 105 patients interested in the arts to 87 patients who were not interested. Patients in both groups had similar overall clinical outlooks.

Stroke survivors that appreciated the arts were in better overall health, could walk more easily, were more energetic and tended to be happier. They were also less likely to be depressed.

Investigators also discovered that patients who appreciated the arts had better memory and had better communication skills as compared to the group that was not interested in the arts.

"Stroke survivors who saw art as an integrated part of their former lifestyle, by expressing appreciation towards music, painting and theater, showed better recovery skills than those who did not," Dr. Vellone said. "The results suggest that art may make long term changes to the brain which help it recover when things go wrong."

Researchers suggest that arts may stimulate a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control pleasure centers within the brain.

"Dopamine improves quality of life each time it is released in the brain," says Dr. Vellone. "Further research is needed to see if other art forms stimulate dopamine release."

The study was presented at the 12th Annual Spring Meeting on Cardiovascular Nursing on March 16 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Review Date: 
March 15, 2012
Last Updated:
March 16, 2012