Art, music, and brain health intersect in new drama ‘UnRavelled’

Posted on: 03 March 2021

The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), based at Trinity College and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have hosted a screening of UnRavelled, a new drama by award-winning Los Angeles-based playwright Jake Broder, which explores the relationship between art, music and brain health.

Based on true events, UnRavelled explores the fascinating connection between the work of Canadian painter Anne Adams (1940–2007) and French composer Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), both of whom, it was discovered, lived with the same rare brain disease.

The drama tells the story of Anne Adams, a renowned scientist, who, in her fifties and at the height of her career, suddenly lost her passion for science and began painting. Starting out with simple works such as houses and fruit — Adams became inexplicably obsessed by Ravel’s famous symphonic masterpiece, Boléro, and began to paint in a wildly different style. The result was Adams’ most famous work, “Unravelling Boléro,” a virtuosic painting of brilliant design and colour, in which she transcribed Ravel’s music bar by bar.

In his attempt to understand and navigate her radically changing sense of self, Anne’s husband brought her to see Dr Bruce Miller, GBHI Co-Director and Director of the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and so the origins of the UnRavelled story emerged.

According to Dr Miller, both Ravel and Dr Adams had been in the early stages of primary progressive aphasia, a form of frontotemporal dementia; the disease apparently altered circuits in their brains, changing the connections between the front and back parts and resulting in a torrent of creativity.

Unravelled writer Jake Broder became fascinated by the story of Anne Adams and while a Hellman Visiting Artist at UCSF he had the opportunity to learn about neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia, and to carry out research and interviews which inspired his creation of the play UnRavelled.

Reflecting on the play Professor Brian Lawlor, Deputy Executive Director of GBHI and Conolly Norman Chair in Old Age Psychiatry at Trinity College said:

UnRavelled is essentially a story of hope and a strong reminder to all of us that even in the face of a degenerative brain disease, people can show extraordinary resilience and creativity. In an engaging and accessible way, the play helps us understand the brain science that underpins creativity and where art, science and brain health intersect, all of which are front and centre to the mission of GBHI.

The GBHI community is engaged in a wide range of artist-led initiatives exploring brain health and dementia. Many of them combine artistic work and evidence-based research to improve understanding of the experience of people with dementia and their carers, as well as providing opportunities to share personal stories, change perceptions and stigma, and generate possibilities for community engagement.


Written by Jake Broder

Directed by Nike Doukas

Starring Lucy Davenport, Conor Duffy, Melissa Greenspan, Leo Marks, Rob Nagle with narrations by Michael Lanahan. The drama will also remain available on demand at through March 31, 2021.







Media Contact:

Ciara O’Shea, Media Relations Officer | | +353 1 896 4337