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Front Neurol. 2014 Apr 22;5:55. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2014.00055. eCollection 2014.

Dopamine and the biology of creativity: lessons from Parkinson's disease.

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U836, INSERM , Grenoble , France ; University of Grenoble Alpes, GIN , Grenoble , France ; Movement Disorder Unit, CHU de Grenoble , Grenoble , France.
Centre d'Investigation Clinique, CHU de Grenoble, Université Joseph Fourier , Grenoble , France.
U836, INSERM , Grenoble , France ; University of Grenoble Alpes, GIN , Grenoble , France ; Department of Neurosurgery, CHU de Grenoble , Grenoble , France.
Department of Neurosurgery, CHU de Grenoble , Grenoble , France.



Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by reduced flexibility, conceptualization, and visuo-spatial abilities. Although these are essential to creativity, case studies show emergence of creativity during PD. Knowledge about the role of dopamine in creativity so far only stems from a few case reports. We aim at demonstrating that creativity can be induced by dopaminergic treatments in PD, and tends to disappear after withdrawal of dopamine agonists.


Eleven consecutive creative PD patients were selected from candidates for subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation (STN DBS) surgery, and compared to 22 non-creative control PD patients. Motor disability (UPDRS III), cognition (Frontal score, Mattis scale), and behavior (Ardouin scale) were assessed before surgery and 1 year after.


Before surgery, whereas cognitive and motor assessments were similar between groups, dopamine agonist (but not levodopa) dosages were higher in creative patients (p = 0.01). The Ardouin scale revealed also a specific psycho-behavioral profile of creative patients which had higher scores for mania (p < 0.001), hobbyism (p = 0.001), nocturnal hyperactivity (p = 0.041), appetitive functioning (p = 0.003), and ON euphoria (p = 0.007) and lower scores for apathy and OFF dysphoria (p = 0.04 for each). Post-operative motor, cognitive, and behavioral scores as dopaminergic treatment dosages were equivalent between groups. Motor improvement allowed for a 68.6% decrease in dopaminergic treatment. Only 1 of the 11 patients remained creative after surgery. Reduction of dopamine agonist was significantly correlated to the decrease in creativity in the whole population of study (Spearman correlation coefficient ρ = 0.47 with confidence index of 95% = 0.16; 0.70, p = 0.0053).


Creativity in PD is linked to dopamine agonist therapy, and tends to disappear after STN DBS in parallel to reduction of dopamine agonists, which are relatively selective for the mesolimbic D3 dopamine receptors.


Parkinson’s disease; STN DBS; creativity; dopamine; impulse control disorders

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