University Professor Chairs international arts and dementia conference

15 March 2017

Canterbury Christ Church University’s Professor Paul Camic chairs the first ever International Arts and Dementia Research Conference, exploring how the arts can support and improve the lives of people living with dementia, and their carers.

The conference, which was hosted by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), and supported by the Wellcome Trust and Lankelly Chase, brought together 100 health experts from around the world. A variety of topics were covered over the two days ranging from the role of Gaelic and English bilingualism in relation to dementia care, to dementia patients taking on the role of composers and performers in music therapy sessions.

Paul Camic, Professor of Psychology and Public Health at Canterbury Christ Church University and Chair of the conference, said: “There are biological as well as psychological and social mechanisms which, if utilized by collaborating researchers and artists, could be instrumental in the development of dementia care.

“By thinking about the arts as part of our evolutionary development when working with people with dementia, we find a theoretical foundation that includes biological, psychological and social components. We are also provided with the rationale that research involving the arts and science allows us to explore arts as a means for learning, creativity, stress reduction, wellbeing, cognitive and emotional stimulation, social interaction and behavioural conditioning.

“As we have seen at this conference, the arts, sciences and technology have vast potential in collaborating. Together, they can develop new research methodologies, assessment tools and interventions using, for example, eye tracking devices, physiological stress measurements and video analysis. This will help us to understand the challenges faced by those with different types of dementia, and to provide innovative tools and interventions using a range of art forms, to support those with dementia, family members and professional carers.”

Professor Anne Bastings, an artist and Professor of Theatre at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, gave the first talk of the conference, “Then at last we arrived”: Arts, Ageing and Utopia. Professor Bastings was named as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2016, one of the USA’s most distinguished awards in the arts and sciences.

Dr Teppo Särkämö, a psychologist and researcher working at the Cognitive Brain Research Unit at the University of Helsinki, opened the second morning of the conference with Music for the ageing brain: Cognitive, emotional and neural benefits of musical leisure activities in stroke and dementia. His research focuses on the neural mechanisms of music and speech processing, neuroplasticity, ageing, and music-based interventions for neurological illnesses.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health said: “The incidence of dementia is increasing rapidly along with the aging populations around the world, and there are, as yet, no effective drug treatments to prevent or slow the disease progression. It is therefore critical that we have proven strategies and programmes that help to support those with dementia and their carers.

"The arts have been leading the way in dementia support and the conference has enabled us to share research from around the world. The speakers have made a real impact on our knowledge and understanding of how to help people with dementia; their work is a major contribution to society.”

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 95% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2013/14 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 23/03/2017 16:38:00