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Art Therapy for Improving Symptoms of Parkinson Disease

September 20, 2018

A new study aims to investigate the benefits that art therapy may have in improving visuospatial function and gait in patients with Parkinson disease (PD).

PD symptoms come in a variety of motor and non-motor forms, including visuospatial dysfunction, ie, loss of space orientation, motion perception, and target localization. Effective treatments require multidisciplinary approaches involving physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological support, family counseling, and palliative care.

But specific therapeutic strategies for visuospatial dysfunction associated with PD are lacking, so researchers from the Marlene and Paolo Fresco Institute for Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders at NYU Langone Health developed an art therapy intervention protocol that includes psychotherapy and art creation.

Authors said that preliminary data show that art therapy is “a safe, non-invasive, reproducible modality of intervention” that could help patients restore functional independence and improve their quality of life.

Based on this promising data, researchers have designed a new study to determine the characteristics of visuospatial exploration and its neural basis as assessed by clinical and behavioral tests, neuropsychological inventories, eye tracking, gait analysis, and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The therapeutic impact of art therapy on visuospatial dysfunction will be assessed.

Those enrolled in the study will take part in art therapy sessions consisting of 20 consecutive sessions lasting 90 minutes each, approximately twice per week for a maximum of 14 weeks. It will be administered by credentialed professionals with a master’s degree in art therapy. The approach will favor group dynamics, mutual support, and encouragement through shared projects. A total of nine different projects are planned, which will be introduced every two sessions.

Each project will focus on different aspects of visuospatial function, such as the ability to comprehend, manipulate, and create 3D artifacts using multisensory integration and hand-eye coordination, and organizing artifacts in 2D, which implies abstraction skills and sequential planning.

Emotional well-being, daily quality of life, and motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s will be assessed using different scales, questionnaires, and tests, along with three computerized tasks to assess visual discrimination, perception and visual-executive functions.

The ExplorArtPD study (NCT03178786) is currently recruiting participants in New York, NY.

—Amanda Del Signore

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