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Emory to showcase art and music to increase awareness of Alzheimer's disease

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The Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center will host a musical celebration this month to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease (AD), its impact on families and the importance of ongoing research participation.

The free concert, titled "The Spirit Lives On: Art, Music and the Mind", will feature Atlanta Master Chorale and the Morehouse College Glee Club and will be held on Sunday, Jan. 31 at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Emory University. Tickets are required and the event has sold out.

Another performance of “The Spirit Lives On” is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30, at 8 p.m. in Emerson Concert Hall at the Schwartz Center. Tickets for this show are $20, or $15 for discount categories and $10 for students. They can be purchased online and through the Arts at Emory box office.

This unique program is the culmination of a research study looking at how art and photography impact those affected with AD, by providing social and cognitive stimulation.

"The premise behind this project is to facilitate the communication and social interaction between caregivers and Alzheimer's patients," says Whitney Wharton, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine and one of the study investigators. "It's about providing cognitive stimulation in a safe space and being able to potentially preserve the neurons in people afflicted with AD."

One part of the study involved AD patients and a caregiver observing artifacts at the Michael C. Carlos Museum and then creating their own works of art. An art therapist, who is also a museum docent, led the four weekly sessions and provided historical and background information about the art shown each week. 

A second part of the study focused on caregivers of AD patients and involved photography sessions with a professional photographer. Caregivers were given digital cameras and were asked to document what life is like for someone taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer's.

Several of the photographs, along with some of the created works of art will be on display in the lobby of the Schwartz Center during the concert. 

"The finished works are really quite impactful," says Wharton, "and I think people are really going to be humbled, and maybe surprised, at this very intimate look at what it's like to live with this disease."

About the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

The Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC) is the only National Institutes of Health designated ADRC in the Southeast, signifying the highest status an institution can receive in Alzheimer's research and care.  Emory's ADRC, part of the Emory Brain Health Center, is a magnet for patients in the region, a catalyst for research and a vital source of training and education for the community and other professionals.

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