Recipe for PD Patients to Quit Baking and Start Making Fine Art

“We would often be ashamed of our finest actions if the world understood all the motives which produced them.” 

Duke François de La Rochefoucauld, French writer


Israeli Parkinson’s Disease expert Prof. Rivka Inzelberg was used to patients’ gifts of homemade confections in the holidays, but they’ve switched to more thrilling surprises.

Imagine her joy to receive lovely paintings and drawings, hand-sculpted figurines, heartfelt poems, elegant wood carvings and essays in tribute to the journey of progress they are now sharing.

Some of the artistic creations the men and women she treats at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine are of professional quality, displayed and sold in galleries.

One of her male PD patients discovered he has a true flair for words and placed first in a poetry contest.

Most of her ladies had never tried to make anything more challenging than a savory shabbat dinner, and most confess they never dreamed they possessed a talent to create beauty.

The magic ingredient is synthetic dopamine precursors or dopamine receptor agonists, whichever medication they are now receiving

The work of Prof. Inzelberg and her Italian colleague, Dr. Margherita Canesi, will be explored in more detail in the February issue of the international  journal “Behavioral Neuroscience.”

“Some became so invested in their new-found passion that they found themselves doing things like neglecting their housework,” Dr. Canesi said merrily.

She was the lead study author of a smaller examination in Italy that yielded similar findings to the larger Israeli survey of PD patients and their responses to dopamine treatments. The numbers involved were not revealed. Research elsewhere purports to find that some PD patients given doses of dopamine precursors or agonists to boost their levels have had adverse reactions. Some had impulses to gamble, shop compulsively, overeat, have sexual flings and engage in other negative behaviors.

Dopamine’s roles in the human body include facilitating the smooth flow of neural messages for muscular movement as well as regulating mood in a normal, acceptable manner. Too much or too little will cause trouble.

Parkinson’s Disease is caused by too little–neurons dying–and disrupting the flow of messages through the nervous system with both physical and emotional affect. Why then would some in one PD study group react with unacceptable or damaging behavior, while another blossoms happily and creatively?

Too little dopamine causes inhibition in PD parlance, rather than outright depression, although that can afflict Parkinson victims as well. “Inhibition” in this case may simply reflect a lower, listless, less-fulfilled state.

They were too discouraged to even try artistic expression, even if attracted.

Professor Inzelberg speculates her creative group was so delighted at the unexpected rewards from their dopamine therapy that it overwhelmed any desire for “cheap thrills.” 

Moreover, the praise for their artistic talent hidden so long in the shadows of their miserable illness also reinforced a desire for continued recognition and satisfaction.

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