UCL Grand Challenges


Culture Connections

A Pilot Study of Online Art Conversations as a Tool to Support Psychological Wellbeing in People Living with or Alongside Rare Forms of Dementia

an image of two hands reaching for each other

3 October 2020


Grant: Grand Challenges Special Initiatives - Age
Year awarded: 2020-21
Amount awarded: £9,000


  • Mine Orlu, Pharmacy, Life Sciences
  • Sebastian Crutch, Dementia Research Centre, Brain Sciences

The Culture Connections pilot study investigated if the well-known facilitated arts-based conversation method called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) could be of value as an online psychological support tool for people living with, or alongside rare forms of dementia. VTS was used to facilitate online art conversations in both the training and the support workshops, whereby the training workshops had a stronger emphasis on the theoretical background and elaborated on how the facilitation techniques of the VTS method could support the psychological wellbeing of people living with, or alongside rare forms of dementia.

Infographic of the project

A cross-disciplinary approach combining art, psychology and social neuroscience was used to explore how art conversations affect (neuro)psychological wellbeing in a social context. The aim of the pilot workshops was to i) scope public interest, ii) test the content, structure and delivery, and iii) measure the impact of the online art conversations on psychological wellbeing.

Through Rare Dementia Support Network and Impact Study, the team recruited students, professionals, and people living with rare forms of dementia. In total, 27 participants (aged 18-74) took part in the online workshops and training.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://youtu.be/yDcX3E37bWM


Both the training and the support pilot Culture Connections workshops were received very well, with 67% of all participants indicating they had enjoyed the workshop a great deal and 23% of participants indicating they had enjoyed the workshop a lot. The selected artworks were also considered very engaging by most participants, with 43% indicating ‘a great deal’ and 23% indicating ‘a lot’. Repeat interest was also high, with 60% of all participants indicating they would definitely take part again in a Culture Connections workshop and 20% indicating they would probably take part again. Social connectedness during the workshops was the strongest predictor of psychological wellbeing during the workshops across all groups.

The project was a spin-off from the UCL I&E-funded CelebrAGE Innovation Network and expanded on a successful working relationship with the social enterprise The Thinking Eye, while simultaneously developing a new cross-disciplinary collaboration with the UCL Rare Dementia Support (RDS) Impact Study.

The Culture Connections project exhibition panel at the Grand Challenges, Grand Impacts exhibition, 2023


Read full report ​(pdf) →