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Case study: Stroke, Self and Brain workshops for medical students and stroke survivors

The Science Stroke Art collaboration between The University of Manchester and the Stroke Association uses creative arts/science activities to build understanding of the impact of strokes.

Since its beginnings in 2014 as a set of public engagement and awareness events during Action on Stroke Month, the collaboration has created further events that harness the arts to enable people to build their knowledge of strokes and how they affect patients in different ways.

These included the Stroke: Stories of the Self through Art and Science workshops in 2015 (read a blog post by visual artist Elisa Artesero about the event).

In 2017, the Engaging Our Communities fund helped make the Stroke, Self and Brain project happen, using art workshops to bring patients and carers together with medical students, scientists and artists.

The three workshops used different creative techniques to explore the damage that occurs during a stroke, such as recreating the brain using different coloured tissue paper to represent emotions, with brain scans to inform the creative work.

Benefits for patients

Stroke survivors reported that the project helped them gain a better understanding of the effects of stroke through learning from the medical students, as well as raising their self-esteem and self-understanding.

They were able to build their brain images by asking students about the different areas of the brain and what they do.

Medical student Ellen Macpherson said: "I think it gives people an outlet to speak about things that are challenging to talk about or more subjective and difficult to communicate, and gives you a chance to learn a bit more about yourself as well."

Project Lead Emmanuel Pinteaux said about the participants: "They got involved very quickly. They integrated into the discussion group around the table, and they were very proactive."

Benefits for students

Medical students and staff similarly gained a better understanding of the impact of stroke from the stroke survivors. Student Sahrash Andleeb said: "You see the long-term effects it has on people and how this as art therapy can help the long-term rehabilitation process.

"This is a group of people I never would have spent this much time with before. I think it's really useful and helps people to look at things in a different way."

Project Lead Dr Stephanie Snow commented: "By bringing medical students and stroke survivors into the same creative space, it was a very fertile way for stroke survivors to share their experiences of stroke, and for medical students to really understand what the impact of stroke is on everyday life."

Watch the workshop video