Central Nervous System

Published Online: Monday, March 19, 2012

Creativity and Impulsivity in Parkinson’s Disease

Some Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients treated with dopamine therapy demonstrate a dramatic, newfound interest in artistic pursuits. At times, these patients become so immersed in creative activities that they ignore everyday responsibilities—behavior that can appear similar to an impulse control disorder (ICD).

To determine whether these artistic pursuits are evidence of ICDs, a team of Italian researchers compared 36 PD patients—18 who spent at least 2 or more hours per day on creative projects after starting dopamine therapy and 18 who did not—with 36 healthy controls without PD. Participants’ levels of creativity and impulsivity were measured using the Torrence Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), the Barratt Impulsivity Scale (BIS-11A), and the Minnesota Impulsive Disorders Interview (MIDI).

The results appear in the March 2012 issue of the European Journal of Neurology. They show that the artistic PD patients had similar TTCT scores to the healthy controls, but the nonartistic PD patients had significantly lower overall scores compared with the healthy controls and significantly lower scores in some areas than the artistic PD patients. For all participants, there was no correlation between creativity as gauged by the TTCT and impulsivity as gauged by the BIS-11A. There was also little difference in creativity for patients who tested positive or negative for impulsivity on the MIDI.

The researchers conclude that, although the intense artistic activity pursued by PD patients on dopamine therapy may appear to be a manifestation of an ICD, it is actually the result of triggering an innate artistic skill or interest.


Twitter Gives Epilepsy a Bad Name

With more than 100 million messages (or “tweets”) sent per day from at least 200 million users worldwide, the online messaging service Twitter offers researchers an unparalleled opportunity to study what people are thinking in real time. Unfortunately, these thoughts are not always positive, as researchers who studied tweets on the subject of epilepsy discovered.

The researchers, from Dalhousie University in Canada, analyzed 10,662 tweets collected during a week in April 2011 including the word “seizure” or “seizures” and judged that 41% were derogatory. There were, however, a few examples of tweets that stood up against the general mockery. A particularly vivid example: “Why do people joke about epilepsy and seizures? Do they joke about cancer? Attach your brain 2 a car battery & see how funny it is!”

The researchers suggest that those speaking out against negative stereotypes and mocking remarks need to be more vociferous and underscore the importance of better public education about epilepsy. They point out that Twitter has the potential to positively influence public perception of epilepsy and seizures, although it is currently a medium for perpetuating stigmas about them.

“It is now time for the epilepsy community to rise up, have our own Twitter revolution, and alter the way the condition is perceived,” writes Joseph Sirven, MD, professor of neurology and chair of the department of neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, in an editorial that appears along with the study in the February 2012 issue of Epilepsy & Behavior.


Pregnancy Appears to Reduce Risk of MS

Women who have had multiple pregnancies appear to have a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to the results of a study published in the March 20, 2012, issue of Neurology. The risk went down with each successive pregnancy and the benefit did not fade over time. 

The researchers, led by Anne-Louise Ponsonby, PhD, of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, compared 282 subjects between the ages of 18 and 59 years who had initial symptoms of MS with 542 subjects who had no MS symptoms. For women, the number of pregnancies at least 20 weeks long was recorded and, for men, the number of children fathered.

The results showed that, compared with women who had never been pregnant, women who had been pregnant 3 or more times had a quarter the risk of developing MS symptoms and women who had been pregnant 5 or more times had just a twentieth the risk. For men, there was no association between the number of children and the likelihood of developing MS symptoms.

Most previous studies have failed to find a link between pregnancy and MS risk, but the findings of the current study could help explain the increasing female-to-male sex bias in MS. Over the past half century, the ratio of women with MS to men with MS has increased from 2:1 to 3.5:1, with the MS rate increasing in women and holding steady in men. During this same period, women have been bearing children later in life and having fewer children.  



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