Parkinson’s disease and changes in the appreciation of art

Jon O. Lauring, Matthew Pelowski, Eva Specker, Tomohiro Ishizu, Steven Haugbol, Barbara Hollunder, Helmut Leder, Johan Stender, Ron Kupers

•Parkinson’s disease (PD) has been connected to a burst of artistic creativity.
•PD patients’ perception and evaluation of art is compared against healthy controls.
•No evidence for PD-related differences in liking or beauty ratings.
•PD patients showed significantly higher ratings on assessed “emotionality.”
•This is potentially related to the tie between PD, DA pathways, and emotion/reward.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressing neurodegenerative disease predominantly involving the loss of dopamine producing neurons with hallmark symptoms of motor disorders and cognitive, motivational, emotional, and perceptual impairments. Intriguingly, PD can also be connected—often anecdotally—with a sudden burst of artistic creativity, motivation, or changed quality/style of produced art. This has led to growing empirical interest, promising a window into brain function and the unique neurological signature of artists. This topic also fits a growing interest from researchers in other areas, including Alzheimer’s or other dementia, which have suggested that specific changes in art production/appraisal may provide a unique basis for therapy, diagnosis, or understanding of these diseases. However, whether PD also shows similar impacts on how we perceive and evaluate art has never been systematically addressed. We compared a cohort of PD patients against age-matched healthy controls, asking participants to rate paintings using scales of liking and beauty and terms pertaining to artworks’ formal and conceptual qualities previously designed to provide a rubric for symptom identification. We found no evidence for PD-related differences in liking or beauty. However, PD patients showed higher ratings on assessed “emotionality,” potentially relating to the tie between PD, dopamine pathways, and emotion/reward.

Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology, Department of Art History
Brain and Cognition
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology
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