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Consider art therapy for residents with Parkinson's disease

July 17, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Engaging in art-related activities can help people with Parkinson’s disease feel less isolated and be able to fully express themselves, according to an author of an empirical study published in Annals of Neurology.

The study, by Rivka Inzelberg, MD, of Tel Aviv University and Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel, definitively demonstrates that people who have Parkinson's disease are more creative than their peers who don’t have the disease, and it also found that those taking higher doses of medication are more artistic than their less-medicated counterparts.

"It began with my observation that Parkinson's patients have a special interest in art and have creative hobbies incompatible with their physical limitations," Inzelberg says. "In my last paper, I reviewed case studies from around the world and found them to be consistent. In my present research, we conducted the first comprehensive study to measure the creative thinking of Parkinson's patients.”

Inzelberg and colleagues conducted a full battery of tests on 27 people with Parkinson's who were being treated with anti-Parkinson's drugs and 27 age- and education-matched healthy controls. Throughout the testing, those with Parkinson's disease offered more original answers and more thoughtful interpretations than their healthy counterparts.

The second round of testing—in which the participants with Parkinson's were divided into higher- and lower-medicated groups—also demonstrated a clear link between medication and creativity. People with Parkinson's experience a lack of dopamine, which is associated with tremors and poor coordination. As such, they are usually treated with either synthetic precursors of dopamine or dopamine receptor agonists. Dopamine and artistry have long been connected, Inzelberg says.

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