Niffy Thomas became an artist after she underwent DBS for treatment of early onset Parkinson’s Disease

Michael Stanley, MD is a Behavioral Neurology Fellow at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston

#44 Jennifer Thomas & Michael Stanley – The creative spark: Switching on the inner artist in the face of Parkinson’s Disease

In this conversation with Jennifer (‘Niffy’) Thomas and Dr. Michael Stanley, we talk about how Niffy became an artist after undergoing DBS surgery to treat her early onset Parkinson’s Disease. Dr. Michael Stanley is a cognitive neurologist at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and has special interest in art and the brain: He studies how lesions or other neurological conditions can lead to cessation of artistic behavior or how they can change the artistic style of artists. When he read about Niffy’s case, he reached out to her and the two had multiple conversations about it. In preparation to this conversation, we were in contact with Dr. Paul Krack (Bern) who has studied and published upon similar cases in which DBS surgery changed or initiated artistic behavior. There is so much we can learn from Niffy and I am very grateful for her taking the time to share her story: Indeed, in her youth, Niffy did not enjoy art class at school and never had a particular interest in painting. She expressed herself differently: Via athletic competition or by playing the piano. But after coming home from DBS surgery in 2019, all of a sudden, there was this imminent urge – to paint…

References and Links:

  • Niffy’s facebook page “theparkieartist”
  • Case report by the team of Prof. Walker from the Department of Neurology, University of Alabama at Birmingham:
    Black SD, Del Bene VA, Celka AS, Guthrie B, Martin RC, Olson J, Shumake J, Walker HC. Nascent visual artistic expression following right hemisphere subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. 2022;99:47-50. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2022.04.020

Some of Niffy’s paintings that she shared with us