Artistic Rx

Does a Parkinson’s Drug Increase Creativity?

A new study shows that Parkinson’s patients on the drug levodopa are much more creative than their peers. But don’t hold your breath for a cure for writer’s block.

Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Could a prescription for creativity be on the horizon?

According to a new study, a link has been found between surges of creativity and the drug levodopa—but only in Parkinson’s patients. Several doctors noticed that their patients receiving the synthetic dopamine-precursor pill were producing copious amounts of paintings, poems, and novels. But, were they becoming obsessive in their pursuits?

That is the focus of a new study recently published by neurologist Rivka Inzelberg in the Annals of Neurology. “Because the medication can cause a loss of impulse control—let’s say, obsessive painting, obsessive hobby-ism—we wanted to check if there was a correlation between creativity measures and impulsivity and compulsivity measures,” Inzelberg, a professor at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, told The Atlantic.

Only one account of obsessive art-making has been reported—a “devastating addiction to painting,” as described by some neurologists. “I started painting from morning till night, and often all through the night until morning,” the 41-year-old patient described in a medical journal. “I used countless numbers of brushes at a time. I used knives, forks, sponges … I would gouge open tubes of paint—it was everywhere.” Eventually, the patient was painting on any surface she could find—walls, furniture, and household appliances.

For the study, Inzelberg gave subjects, including those diagnosed with Parkinson’s and those who do not suffer from the disease, visual and verbal tests and examined their responses based on creativity. While the results showed no relationship between compulsive behavior and the increase in creativity Inzelberg was observing, they did find that those taking higher doses of levodopa not only scored better than those without Parkinson’s, but that they also were also more creative in their responses.

However, hold off before you start asking for a prescription for creativity. “If a normal person takes these medications and tries to become creative… well, we don’t know if that would work,” Inzelberg said. [via The Atlantic]