Artistic creativity and DBS: A case report

V. Drago, P. S. Foster, M. S. Okun, I. Haq, A. Sudhyadhom, F. M. Skidmore, K. M. Heilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a treatment for patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) who are not adequately controlled with medications. An artist reported changes in her artistic creativity and art appreciation when treated with left DBS. We sought to study her artistic productions and her appreciation of art while both "on" and "off" left DBS. Methods: A 69-year-old right-handed woman with an approximate 20-year history of PD was referred to us for management of a left subthalamic region nucleus (STN) DBS placed at another institution 4years prior. In Experiment 1 we had her rate several dimensions (Evocative Impact, Aesthetics, Novelty, Technique, Closure and Representation) of another artist's paintings. In Experiment 2, we tested her with the Abbreviated Torrance Test (of creativity) for Adults (ATTA). During testing the patient remained on her dopaminergic medication, but was tested on and off left DBS. Results: On the judgment task while "on" left DBS, versus "off" DBS, there were significant reductions in her appreciation of artistic Closure and Technique. When "off" DBS her ATTA creativity index was above average, but when switched "on" her creativity index was below average. Conclusions: These results suggest the possibility that left ventral STN/SNR DBS reduces creativity as well as appreciation of art. The reason for these alterations is not known, but might be related to enhanced activation of the left hemisphere and reciprocal deactivation of the right hemisphere which mediates both visuospatial skills and global attention, both of which are important in artistic creativity and appreciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-142
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the Neurological Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Art
  • Creativity
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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