A new report describes two Indian men with Parkinson’s disease who experienced “creative awakenings” after they started being treated with levodopa.
Appropriately titled, “A tale of two patients: Levodopa and creative awakening in Parkinson’s disease – A qualitative report,” the study was published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry.
Levodopa is one of the mainstays of Parkinson’s treatment, and there have been scattered reports of people treated with it developing increased artistic creativity. The new study details the cases of two men, both from India, where levodopa-induced creativity has not been previously reported.
The first man, Mr. A, is a 68-year-old shopkeeper. He developed symptoms of Parkinson’s in 2010, and began treatment with levodopa in 2017.
Six months after he started on levodopa, Mr. A noticed some coconut shells lying in his yard and was struck by the urge to make something out of them. “It just happened, I just had these ideas,” he is quoted in the study as saying.
Mr. A began making various things out of the coconuts — pen holders, paperweights, cups, and more. He kept doing it, and now makes five to 10 such items per day.
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Although he claims he was “not an artistic kind of person before all this,” Mr. A now sells his crafts at various shops. Although it’s not a full-fledged business, he says it does help him with his finances.
The second man, Mr. R, is a 63-year-old farmer who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011. He began levodopa treatment in 2015, and shortly thereafter, upon seeing his grandchild coloring, decided to start painting.
“I draw or paint all the time. I just can’t stop,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for nearly three years now.”
Mr. R, who regularly paints two or three pictures a day, has turned this newfound passion into a career. “Now it is a major source of income for me,” he said. “What gives me greater happiness is that I use the money I generate to support other people who need financial assistance for their medical needs.”
Both Mr. A and Mr. R are, on the whole, quite satisfied with the unexpected turns their lives have taken.
“I feel it’s given me a purpose in life,” said Mr. R. “If Parkinson’s disease was the only way I could have done all this, I won’t complain, honestly.”
“‘I am really happy. I don’t know what else to say,” said Mr. A.
It’s not clear exactly why levodopa treatment leads to creative awakenings in some patients. Several mechanisms have been proposed, such as:
- “Creativity is a result of hyperactivity and behavioral disinhibition;”
- “Creativity is a result of stimulation by dopamine agonists;”
- “Creativity might be the emergence of innate skills in some predisposed Parkinson’s patients on dopaminergic therapy.”
However, in this report, researchers wanted to emphasize how this creative expression could be beneficial to patients.
“All in all, it would seem reasonable to assume that [making art] helped [Mr. A and Mr. R] cope positively with [Parkinson’s] and its deficits,” the researchers said. “Such artistic expression is therapeutic; it’s a form of art therapy, and we call for this usefulness to be further explored in routine clinical practice.”