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The Gift of Parkinson’s

March 7, 2016

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Today, as I tried to work around the ever increasing Parkinson’s symptoms, I thought of how Parkinson’s has impacted my work.  There are aspects that are harder.  As I thought of the design aspects, however,  I couldn’t think of anything that had been negatively impacted.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt the opposite – that if anything, I felt more creative.

I was curious.  I googled “parkinson’s creativity”.  Wow.  According to some recent studies, it appears that Parkinson’s may increase creativity.  Being in the creative field, that sounds like a gift.  Here are excerpts from two of the articles I read:

From “Parkinson’s Could Enhance Creativity”  http://www.livescience.com/46925-parkinsons-enhance-creativity.html

People with Parkinson’s disease may have higher levels of creativity than their healthy peers, a new study finds.

Researchers compared the creativity levels of 27 Parkinson’s patients with 27 healthy people of the same education level and age. Participants were asked to interpret abstract pictures, answer questions aimed at provoking imagination (such as, “What can you do with sandals?”) and explain imaginative metaphors such as a “scarf of fog.”

The researchers found Parkinson’s patients understood more of the pictures, brainstormed more metaphors with symbolic meaning rather than literal meaning and drew a larger number of interpretations from abstract images, compared with the people without Parkinson’s.

Study researcher Rivka Inzelberg, a neurologist at Tel Aviv University’s Neuroscience Center, said that Parkinson’s patients often feel liberated from the illness when they are allowed to engage in creative activities, which can be good for their well-being. Although Parkinson’s patients have difficulty moving, they can feel differently when they paint; some describe their motions as feeling big, as if they didn’t have the illness, Inzelberg said.

A second theory posits that “when some parts of the brain are degenerating, other parts are becoming more active, and talents can emerge,” Inzelberg told Live Science.

“We have the tendency to think of neurological disorders in the context of people’s deficit, but it is also helpful to think of ways in which they have preserved or, in some instances, enhanced abilities,” Chatterjee told Live Science. 

From “The Most Dangerous Muse – Parkinson’s disease gave her the gift of creativity”  http://nautil.us/issue/20/creativity/the-most-dangerous-muse

Tsipi Shaish, a 59-year-old grandmother, knows exactly when she became an artist: when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2006.

“If you ask me, ‘Why did you do this and not that?’ I wouldn’t be able to answer, because I don’t know it rationally,” Shaish says. Her creative impulses are an integral part of a new version of herself that only came into being after her diagnosis. “I’m more alive than I was 10 years ago,” she says.

Shaish is part of a subset of people with Parkinson’s disease who experience an urgent flowering of creativity even as their brain cells die and their bodies decline due to the neurodegenerative disease. Patients with no prior history of artistic proclivities begin to draw, paint, sculpt, and write poetry. In recent years case studies have shown the brains of the Parkinson’s patients are being reshaped by their disease and medications. Like most Parkinson’s patients, Shaish takes drugs that rebalance the brain’s dopamine system, involved in movement and motivation. There is a light side and a dark side to these neural changes. While some patients produce inspirational art, others get locked in destructive addictions. 

Parkinson’s experts are finding that newly artistic patients like Shaish are tapping a well of creativity that had previously been sealed off. Their bursts of inspiration, the scientists say, offer insights into the neural mechanisms of creativity that lie within us all, and underscore the dictum that creativity flows when our filters are down and the world rushes in.

Shaish sees her condition as a gift. 

So do I.

I’ll gladly trade technical brain cells for more creative ones.

 

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One Comment

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  1. Betty-Jane Kaun #
    March 7, 2016

    Tom I believe that God has given you the gift of design and creativity among others gifts of writing, photography etc. The Parkinson’s is just a little detour in the road which You can over come. With God nothing shall be impossible.

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