A drug used to ease the symptoms of Parkinson's disease has also been found to boost the creativity of patients who are taking it. Levodopa is designed to increase dopamine levels in the brains of Parkinson's patients suffering from tremors, but researchers in Israel say that in some patients, it's also sparking an outpouring of artistic expression.
TEL MOND, ISRAEL (REUTERS) - According to researchers at Tel Aviv University's Sagol Neuroscience Center, a Parkinson's disease drug callled levodopa that is administered to increase dopamine activity also leads to a boost in the brain's "reward system", increasing activity and creativity.
"Research concerns the relationship between Parkinson's disease and the emergence of artistic skills in patients and this is a summary of all cases that were published in the literature to look into the details of who becomes suddenly an artist out of a disease that is actually effecting motor skills," said Professor Rivka Inzelberg, a neurologist at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer hospital and a researcher at Tel Aviv University's SagolNeuroscience Center.
Professor Inzelberg says that after receiving unexpected gifts of artwork from her Parkinson's patients over the years, she decided to conduct research to find a common denominator that could explain the phenomenon.
She says that what she found reinforced her suspicions. Parkinson's patients who took drugs with either synthetic precursors of dopamine or dopamine receptor agonists to increase the activity of dopamine in the brain to combat tremors and muscle rigidity, began developing skills in such artistic pursuits as sculpting, painting and writing.
"As we can see that most of theses patients had no artistic skills before and it occurred out of the disease when they were treated with medication so it seems that this is in the background of the disease the medication causes the appearance of creativity," she said.
Previous research has already drawn a correlation between a spontaneous spiking of dopamine, which is known to cause psychosis, and creativity, such as in the cases ofVincent Van Gogh and Nobel Laureate in Economics John Nash.
Increased dopamine is involved in the brain's "reward system", Professor Inzelberg said and it may explain the manner in which one experiences a sense of satisfaction and happiness from an achievement.
"This is almost proof that when you increase dopaminergic activity there is creativity coming so it teaches us about creativity in general and we can develop from there more research," she said.
75-year old Jacob Sagi is just one example of how medication treating Parkinson's disease can potentially have therapeutic benefits.
Sagy creates wooden sculptures that have been displayed in galleries worldwide. He has also written several books since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease some 19 years ago.
Speaking to Reuters from his home in an assisted living community in Tel Mond incentral Israel, Sagi said the physical relief provided by the medication has also led to an outburst of creativity.
"Just like a battery being charged, when it is full one can break out and reach where ever you want, in this sense I felt relief, a sense of relief and aspiration," Sagi said about the effects of the medication, "there are no longer regulation mechanisms, this is a very dominant phenomenon".
The next phase, Professor Inzelberg says, is to research the differences between patients who experience an increase in creativity and those who do not.