Blogging with Parkinson's

A personal perspective on Young Onset Parkinson's

Dopamine Therapy and Latent Artistry

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Wine is not "dopaminergic therapy".

A FaceBook post by EPDA called this research article to my attention, and I felt that I couldn’t let it go without some comment. The article is called “Artistic productivity and creative thinking in Parkinson’s disease” and states that its purpose was to investigate the emergence of new “Creative drive and enhanced artistic-like production […] in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) during dopaminergic therapy.”

However, it has not been described to date whether this artistic-like production results from dopaminergic drugs triggering innate skills or it could be considered as a repeated behavior possibly associated with impulse control disorders (ICDs).

Canesi M, Rusconi ML, Isaias IU, Pezzoli G
European Journal of Neurology. 2012 Mar. Vol 19 (3); 468-472

First, I would like to take issue with the term “artistic-like”. Surely, “artistic” is sufficient? To my mind, it demeans the creative production of these people (implying that they are not artistic after all, that their artwork is somehow fake or of inherently low quality).

A number of tests of which I know nothing (but am slightly sceptical of nonetheless) were applied and the authors came to the conclusion:

[…] that newly acquired artistic-like production in patients with PD is not associated with impulsivity or ICDs. Artistic-like production might represent the emerging of innate skills in a subset of predisposed patients with PD on dopaminergic therapy.

Which, I have to say, is a good conclusion. If you have skills (of whatever calibre), you have skills. L-Dopa isn’t going to turn you into Rembrandt.

My theory is that many people do have a latent interest in art – one that they may have subconsciously buried as they pursued their live as adults. On retiring (and most people with PD are retirees), there is the potential to revisit these interests. On being diagnosed with an incurable condition, and then receiving the revelatory revival that is “dopaminergic therapy”, they may have decided to just get on with doing some fun stuff for a change. If you think you might be good at something (anything), you feel inclined to do more of it. So you practice. And get better at it. And develop your skills. It’s not obsessive-compulsive (as was suggested but not proven). It’s art.

It should be noted that art has been promoted as a therapy for Parkinson’s patients. It is also worth considering that art does not necessarily require a great deal of motion, and so may appeal to someone whose movements are restricted.

I also wonder if anyone considered the possibility that, maybe, some of these latent artists were trying to win a Mervyn Peake Award…

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One thought on “Dopamine Therapy and Latent Artistry

  1. It wasn’t until after posting that I realised that this article is free-to-view.

    In the full article, it is made clearer that the element that the researchers were interested in was an increase in creative drive. It is also evident that I would have been excluded from this study by virtue of pre-existing artistic activity:

    We excluded [healthy controls] and patients with PD who were established artists and patients with PD who had artistic hobbies before the diagnosis of PD, because we specifically aimed to investigate the potential triggering effect on creativity played by dopaminergic treatment and to characterize its features.

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