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Nigel O’Hearn (MA student, Humanities, UChicago)
Tiara Starks (MA student, Psychology, UChicago)

This project explores the link in the cognitive deficit awareness that can be measured between Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers through engagement in creating poetry together. While numerous studies have worked to quantify the transformative power of engagement in art on Alzheimer’s patients—most frequently in terms of improved social behavior and enriched quality of life—few studies have specifically gauged the cognitive impact of the mnemonic structures of formal verse on cognitive awareness in patients. Nor have studies delved deeply into the cognitive relationship and accuracy of the metacognitive calibration (awareness of patients’ cognitive limitations) between patients and their caregivers, which may be more precisely valuated through the process of creating verse together. By gathering interviews with the patients, impressions of the study process, and the poetry created together with participants during the session into a verse play composed by Nigel O’Hearn (Humanities)—to be offered in workshop presentation at the project’s end—Tiara Starks (Psychology) and O'Hearn will push the boundaries of understanding the expressive limitations of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, while examining some of the social and scientific difficulties of engaging with the affected population.

2016-17