Creativity and the Parkinson’s Mind

Photographer, Marcia Smith

Photographer, Marcia Smith

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation has long recognized the creative abilities that many people with Parkinson’s disease acquire when living with the disease. We even capture many of these expressions on our website with some of the best examples appearing in our acclaimed annual calendar (which you can now pre-order for 2015 here).

So why is the PDF science guy writing about creativity? It turns out a recent article published in the Annals of Neurology by Rivka Inzelberg, M.D., and colleagues sought to investigate the nature of creativity in PD. (PDF has a very nice summary of her work here) She found that people with Parkinson’s taking dopaminergic medication, like Sinemet® or dopamine agonists, were more creative than healthy controls.

Whether this newfound creativity is due to the medications they were taking, the Parkinson’s or some combination is open for further study. But one reassuring thing her team did find is that this creativity was likely not due to a newly developed impulse control disorder or ICD. Dr. Inzelberg has adroitly noted that when this creativity is expressed in moderation it can improve the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s – how true that is.

I think what makes this report all the more interesting is the timing of a recent blog in the New York Times discussing photography as a way to soothe the minds of people with mental illness. Unfortunately, people with PD are no strangers to mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and apathy. But perhaps, by being creative, as Dr. Inzelberg has shown the Parkinson’s mind to be, those with PD can do one more thing to allow them to grapple with PD on their own terms.

Whether it be painting, drawing, or just taking photos with your phone, it sounds like trying to dabble in something creative may well be worth your while … and peace of mind.

One thought on “Creativity and the Parkinson’s Mind

  1. Jim Wong

    Perhaps this “explains” the success of music therapy for PWP. I think we have all experienced the normalizing effect of music on motor symptoms; marching (even to music played just in your own mind) can un-freeze me consistently. And I am amazed at the physical and emotional health that I feel I experience due to choral singing in harmony weekly in two Tremble Clefs chapters. There is little documentation of this in the scientific and clinical literature, but it is known that combining notes and words – both as simultaneous inputs and outputs as happens in group singing – utilizes many functional areas of the brain, and is therefore great mental and physical exercise.

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