Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter, one whose functions is myriad and includes motor control, pleasure response, and habit reinforcement. Levels of dopamine in the brain have long been linked to a feeling of well-being, impulsivity control, and creativity.
In a study in Behavioral Neuroscience, researcher Prof. Rivka Inzelberg of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine investigated an intriguing trend she first noticed at her home Sheba Medical Center clinic. Patients undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease began to attempt and excel in entirely new creative pursuits. Her staff, which regularly received gifts of candies from their patients during the holidays, began receiving art of all kinds instead. And all this art was created by Parkinson’s patients being treated with “either synthetic precursors of dopamine or dopamine receptor agonists, which increase the amount of dopamine activity in the brain by stimulating receptors.”
The tale is reminiscent of Oliver Sacks’ famous “Awakenings” experiments with L-DOPA and patients with a Parkinson’s-like disease. In Prof. Rivka’s study, one woman became an award-winning poet despite never having written before. Another patient cannot walk because of his Parkinson’s symptoms, but found ways to carve elaborate wooden sculptures. Illustration by Lydia Kibiuk. Adapted from Brain Facts, published by the Society for Neuroscience
- by Kelly Bourdet