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Some Parkinson's Patients Discover Artistic Side

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"This does suggest that the medication is driving the behavior," Hassan said.

But, she added, "it would be giving false hope to imply to patients that if they start on medication, they'll become artistic."

While no one knows how common this medicated-related creativity might be, it is almost certainly far less common than negative side effects such as impulsive gambling. In her own study, Hassan found that about one in five patients on Parkinson's drugs developed some form of impulse-control problem.

Dr. Martin Niethammer, a neurologist at North Shore-LIJ's Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Great Neck, N.Y., said he's seen many patients who develop problems with impulse control while on Parkinson's medications, but only one or two who seemed to become more creative.

Both he and Hassan said the phenomenon is probably rare -- though it may be under-recognized because patients do not think to tell their doctors about it.

Another thing that's not clear, Niethammer said, is how many of the patients in the current report developed a "talent" in writing or painting, or simply an interest.

Of course, if the activity brings them pleasure, it doesn't really matter. "If this brings joy to people, then that's great," Niethammer said.

In some cases, the creative expression seems to bring more than enjoyment: It also seems to help some patients with their tremors, according to Inzelberg.

That's what happened for Dan Joseph. Painting seems to calm his tremors, and he feels like his vision becomes more "acute." "I've found that I can sit for hours and paint," said Joseph, who has also recently taken up poetry writing.

And despite the art shows, the fact that he has talent comes second for Joseph. "I really paint for myself," he said. "I feel happy when I'm painting and I'm creating."

More information

Learn more about Parkinson's disease from the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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