Will Burns

Unleash Creativity Blog

Scientific studies that help us unleash our most human attribute: creativity.

Treating Parkinson's Disease Increases Creativity

Photo by  Jose A.Thompson  on  Unsplash

I found a study from a few years ago that suggests that treating Parkinson's disease leads to interesting and profound patient transformations. Where there was little or no creative activity prior to treatment, suddenly there was an abundance after treatment for many.

Parkinson's results in a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. The drugs that treat it, of course, increase the patient's ability to process dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with the rewards center of the brain.

Now, watch this video of Dr. Michelle Brewer talking about all her Parkinson patients and their newfound creative abilities:

Incredible, right? But then there's this study from the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel that confirms the anecdotal evidence, concluding that "Parkinson's patients performed significantly better than controls in divergent thinking tasks."

All this got me thinking.

Can healthy people increase dopamine levels safely in order to increase creativity?

The short answer is yes. I found this incredibly thorough article from BeBrainFit.com, "How To Increase Dopamine Naturally." It's full of foods and activities that directly and sometimes instantly increase dopamine levels.

A quick note of caution. Our brains are not intended to be swimming in dopamine constantly. Too much can lead to addictions, greed and other nasty stuff. That said, increasing dopamine levels through natural, day-to-day and healthy activities isn't going to hurt anyone.

Interestingly, there are foods that contain dopamine. However, that dopamine doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, so you have to, well, get more creative. Amino acid 1-tyrosine actually makes dopamine in your brain. So finding foods high in tyrosine is the ticket.

Foods like:

Almonds, apples, oatmeal, rosemary (rosemary?), olive oil, avocados, watermelon, wheat germ, sesame and pumpkin seeds, beets, and many more. 

Also activities like:

Exercise, listening to music, meditation, and even hobbies that get you in the zone like photography, knitting, woodworking, etc., can do the trick.

I would encourage you to read the article above from BeBrainFit.com for more information. It's just so interesting to me that this one chemical - dopamine - can increase the odds of something so human as creativity. 


Will Burns is a Forbes Contributor, a marketing consultant, and CEO of Ideasicle, a virtual idea generation company. Follow him on Twitter @WillOBurns.