Amanda Alders: Nazareth College Graduate Student. Rochester, NY A 12 Week, Quantitative Study Population: Non-English Speaking Hispanic Elderly Immigrants N=24

This study investigated the role of various activities on cognitive performance in a community sample of Hispanic elderly subjects. One aim of the study was to determine whether differences in cognitive performance could be accounted for by activity, particularly when the influence of other variables, such as gender, country of origin, acculturation, education and frequency of self-initiated tasks were taken into account. The primary aim of the study was to examine whether engagement in structured creative activity, such as art therapy- TTAP Method(c), was predictive of cognitive performance. The research followed a quasi-experiment, pretest/post test format which allowed investigation of the hypothesis that creative activity accounts for positive changes in cognitive functioning. This hypothesis predicts that dynamic, mentally stimulating activity is essential in protecting against cognitive decline associated with age and is positively correlated with cognitive performance.

General procedure: 24 Subjects were interviewed in a Hispanic community center by bilingual interviewers, allowing for culturally sensitive interaction. Information necessary for the evaluation of cognitive functioning was collected in the form of the neurological clock drawing test (Clock Drawing Test- sensitivities: up to .86; specificity: up to .96). The Clock Drawing Test (CDTs) were blindly and independently scored by three raters, using the clock drawing interpretation/scoring system described by Sunderland et al. Participants were also given a pre and post self-report known as the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ), pertaining to the frequency of everyday deficits in attention, perception, memory, and motor coordination (CFQ-internal validity: 0.91; test-retest reliability rate: 0.82). Additionally, personal and demographic information was collected at the onset of the investigation, including education, age, gender, country of origin, date of immigration to U.S., and level of social support.  Art therapy sessions were provided weekly. The experiment duration totaled 12 weeks.

Participation in creative activity as a factor of cognitive functioning:  The statistical significance of the variables was examined using the program SHAZAM ( P < .05). Dependent variable: Difference in pre/post scores. Independent variable: Number of art therapy sessions attended.

A total of 8 variables were taken into account. Those variables included: age, country of origin, gender, education level, duration spent in the US, frequency of self-directed art making, living arrangements, and attendance to art therapy sessions.

Only attendance to art therapy sessions was found to have a significant correlation to cognitive evaluation test scores.  Art Therapy sessions were provided once a week for approximately 2 hours. The format of therapy followed Therapeutic Thematic Arts Programming (TTAP Method ©). Designed by Dr. Levine-Madori (2007).

Correlations among activity and cognitive performance: Cognitive performance scores for both the CFQ and CDT were positively and significantly correlated to participation in art therapy sessions. (The p-values were .010 and .021, respectively).

These findings indicate that creative art therapy sessions contribute positively and significantly to variance in self-perceived cognitive functioning and cognitive performance. Art therapy sessions continued to be associated with cognitive performance levels beyond that contributed by other variables. Given this, it is possible that differences in cognitive performance may be influenced by participating in structured creative activity, such as art therapy- TTAP Method(c).

Participants who attended the art therapy sessions had an average increase in score of 2.2 points in their Clock Drawing Test (CDT) and an average increase of 3.5 points in their Cognitive Failures Questionnaire (CFQ) score. Those who did not attend art therapy sessions had an average increase of 0.1 point in their CDT score and an average decrease of 7.5 points in their CFQ score. If this study were to be repeated, it would be interesting to see if this trend is consistent in other cultures and with other populations.

This full article has been published in the American Art Therapy Journal, September Issue, 2010. Please go to for more information.