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Parkinson's Patients Taking Dopamine May Get Creative Boost

Last updated: Feb 27, 2012


According to a small Italian study, dopamine treatment may uncover hidden artistic talents in some people with Parkinson's. These people may spend hours a day on artistic pursuits, including painting, drawing, sculpting, and writing poetry or novels.

Researchers recruited 18 people with this post-dopamine artistic increase and 18 who were on dopamine but hadn't seen those results. They also recruited 36 healthy controls.

Using various tests of creative and impulsive thinking, researchers found that these newfound artistic pursuits are probably skills and interests that the person has always had but which had not emerged until starting dopamine therapy.

"We believe that their desire to be creative could represent emerging innate skills, possibly linked to repetitive and reward-seeking behaviors," said lead author Margherita Canesi.

It's nice to imagine dopamine helping Parkinson's patients tap into their hidden Poe or Picasso while also easing other symptoms, but there are potential downsides too. Some people get so caught up in their artistic pursuits that they have trouble dealing with daily tasks. Others develop some impulsive behaviors, like compulsive shopping or gambling.

And dopamine doesn't guarantee a ticket to the Met or Oprah's Book Club. As PsychCentral worded it, "Some of the patients produced art that was sold and books that were published, but, at the other end of the scale, some of the creative work was of a very poor quality."