Whether art therapy can be an effective rehabilitative treatment for people with brain or mental diseases (e.g., dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, schizophrenia) is a long-standing and highly debated issue. On the one hand, several observational studies and anecdotal evidence enthusiastically support the effectiveness of arts-based therapy. On the other hand, few rigorous clinical investigations have been performed, and there is too little empirical evidence to allow a full assessment of the risks and beneﬁts of this intervention. Nevertheless, there is a progressively increasing demand for the development of appropriate complementary therapies to improve the personal and social lives of patients with neurodegenerative diseases. This is because conventional medical treatments are aimed at alleviating symptoms but cannot arrest or reverse the degenerative process. Thus, as disease progresses and adverse effects emerge, patients’ quality of life dramatically decreases; when this occurs patients seek different forms of intervention.
Art therapy is a potentially appealing treatment because of its more holistic approach to healthcare. However, as with any medicine, its effects must be tested by using standard, rigorous scientiﬁc approaches. This report describes the current state of research into art therapy and outlines many key factors that future research should consider, all of which are directly or indirectly related to the neural mechanism underlying behavioral changes: brain plasticity. Artistic performance could promote some form of brain plasticity that, to some extent, might compensate for the brain damage caused by the disease.