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The emergence of new skills in the setting of dementia suggests that loss of function in one brain area can release new functions elsewhere.
To characterise 12 patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) who acquired, or sustained, new musical or visual abilities despite progression of their dementia.
Twelve patients with FTD who acquired or maintained musical or artistic ability were compared with 46 patients with FTD in whom new or sustained ability was absent.
The group with musical or visual ability performed better on visual, but worse on verbal tasks than did the other patients with FTD. Nine had asymmetrical left anterior dysfunction. Nine showed the temporal lobe variant of FTD.
Loss of function in the left anterior temporal lobe may lead to facilitation of artistic or musical skills. Patients with the left-sided temporal lobe variant of FTD offer an unexpected window into the neurological mediation of visual and musical talents.
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