The aesthetic experience, in particular the experience of beauty in the visual arts, should have neural correlates in the human brain. Neuroesthetics is principally implemented by functional studies in normal subjects, but the neuropsychology of the aesthetic experience, that is, the impact of brain damage on the appreciation of works of art, is a neglected field. Here, 16 mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease patients and 15 caregivers expressed their preference on 16 works of art (eight representational and eight abstract) during programmed visits to an art gallery. A week later, all subjects expressed a preference rate on reproductions of the same works presented in the gallery. Both patients and caregivers were consistent in assigning preference ratings, and in patients consistency was independent of the ability to recognize the works on which the preference rate had been given in an explicit memory task. Caregivers performed at ceiling in the memory task. Both patients and caregivers assigned higher preference ratings for representational than for abstract works and preference consistency was comparable in representational and abstract works. Furthermore, in the memory task, patients did not recognize better artworks they had assigned higher preference ratings to, suggesting that emotional stimuli (as presumably visual works of art are) cannot enhance declarative memory in this pathology. Our data, which were gathered in an ecological context and with real-world stimuli, confirm previous findings on the stability of aesthetic preference in patients with Alzheimer's disease and on the independence of aesthetic preference from cognitive abilities such as memory.
- alzheimer's disease