Fractals are repeating patterns found in beautiful natural phenomena like this peacock’s tail. Unique as fingerprints, they’re also found in human creations – analysing fractals in brush strokes can separate authentic works of art from fakes. New research suggests that an artist’s fractal ‘signature’ may change with the onset of neurodegenerative disease. The study, which analysed paintings from seven different artists, found distinctive changes in the fractal patterns of painters like James Brooks who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and Salvador Dali, who developed Parkinson’s disease later in life. Similar studies find that linguistic patterns may also change as the brain begins to deteriorate. Such early signs provide clues to how cognitive disorders affect different behaviours and may ultimately suggest ways to treat patients earlier.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.