Parkinson's awakens hidden creative talents

Research published this week in the European Journal of Neurology has shed new light on the relationship between Parkinson's and creativity.

We hear from many people with Parkinson's who suddenly discover new creative hobbies after being diagnosed – including everything from drawing and creative writing, to sculpture and photography.

Our annual Mervyn Peake Awards celebrate the creative talents of people with Parkinson's and we receive hundreds of art, poetry and photography entries every year.

And the 'creative corner' on our forum is a popular place for people with Parkinson's to meet to share their poetry and stories.

The key to this new-found creativity may be a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine.

People with Parkinson's don't have enough dopamine because nerve cells in their brain have died. And Parkinson's drugs, like levodopa and dopamine agonists, work by replacing or mimicking the action of dopamine. This helps to manage the movement symptoms of Parkinson's. But dopamine also plays other roles inside the brain, including creativity.

In this new research study, Italian researchers studied 36 people with Parkinson's - half had taken up new artistic hobbies since being diagnosed and the other half hadn't - and compared them to people without the condition.

The findings suggest that for some people, taking Parkinson's drugs can trigger the discovery of a new artistic interest but the 'ability' was probably there all along.

Have you discovered a new creative interest since being diagnosed with Parkinson's? Share your thoughts below or email us at


turnip said...

I have really enjoyed my increase in creativity - I always wanted to do artistic things but rarely started and very rarely finished them. Now I have made over 500 images, 10 short stories and countless awful poems. Because, as I have said many times, dopamine may affect creativity but doesn't necessarily bring talent. On the other hand, its a short slippery slope from new interest to obsession and madness and many people have not suffered for their art but suffered because of it.

So there has been a benefit to me from PD, and a not insignificant one, but was it worth it? Come to think of it, I wrote a short story about that and the answer was 'yes'. But in 10 years time I could see the answer being a definite 'no'.

Anonymous said...

Just to reflect on Turnips comment and item on increased creativity(I live with Mr P.)I am a piano .and keyboards player ..I have noticed for sometime ..I find myself playing more by ear..and finding musical progressions and chords that I feel takes my music to another level( I am currently taking co-beneldopa )an increased sense of humour..
doing impressions of russian meerkats.. and British bulldogs (more than once out and about shopping etc have raised a laugh)
Yours Ian (M)

Anonymous said...

I have just been diagnosed, but not started medication yet. I have found that in recent years I have LOST my creativity. It will be interesting to see if that changes when I start the medicine.

Parkinson's UK said...

On the topic of creativity and Parkinson's, there's one month to go to enter our Mervyn Peake Awards. Anyone with Parkinson's in the UK can submit art, poetry and photography. See to find out more, including how to enter and a look at last year's winners.

Rod Jeffrey said...

To my knowledge my husband has never painted a picture in his life he was diagnosed three yrs ago with Parkinsons, to date he has painted roughly 20/30 paintings, landscapes, birds, blck/wwhite village scenes, in oils,watercolours,and pencils and pens, all beautifully done,his paintings can be seen online, facebook, Rod Jeffrey, i think he is a medical miracle he has given many away by request so the above article is so true

Anonymous said...

Like many others, I have found so much enjoyment in doing artistic things since being diagnosed. Water colours, pastel work, Pergamano etc - keep me busy and occupied and give me a sense of achievement.
from Guider Jay.

Anonymous said...

My younger sister has PD and has recently begun painting and taking photos, producing quite a volume of inspirational, creative work. She seems to take a cocktail of drugs - I'm not sure which ones, but her new and brilliant work is a real inspiration to me and is, I believe, quite a therapy in it's self for her.

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