This past Thursday, an unusual panel consisting of researchers and members of the Everett Dance Theatre gathered in Filene auditorium to discuss the intersection of neuroscience and the arts.


The creative process is the most poorly understood area of brain science,” said Stephen Lee, founder and co-medical director of the Parkinson’s Center in DHMC. Not surprisingly, Lee’s area of focus is Parkinson’s disease, a disorder that occurs from death of dopamine-generating cells in the midbrain.


Symptoms of Parkinson’s affect both motor and cognitive functions: patients often experience difficulty walking, stiff limbs, and dementia. In his work, Lee regularly uses dopamine-enhancing medication for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.  However, the medication caused an interesting side effect of increased creativity.


Lee cites caregiver meetings he attended, where patients were invited to display their art. He was amazed at the creativity in the patient’s art, motivated through different thinking and creation processes. “[Parkinson’s] disease might impair the creative process, but medication can enhance creative process more than we realize,” said Lee.


The discussion also highlighted arts as a non-traditional route to education, especially for individuals with disabilities or severe traumatic brain injuries. Aaron Jungels mentioned his work with Crotched Mountain, a nonprofit rehabilitation center that provides patient care and schooling. Rather than a traditional sit-down education, patients at Crotched Mountain play games and exercise as a form of learning.


Panelists included:

Jeffery A. Cohen, MD, a professor of neurology at the Dartmouth Medical School and the program director of the Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship.


Stephen Lee, MD, Ph.D, co-medical director of the Parkinson’s Center at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Lee is a recipient of numerous funding sources, including NIH and the Michael J. Fox Foundation in Parkinson’s-related research.


Thomas McAllister served as the moderator for the panel. As the Millennium Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Dartmouth Medical School and Vice Chair of Neuroscience Research, McAllister has been working in the field of brain injury recovery for over 25 years, writing extensively on the subject.


Aaron Jungels, co-founder and co-director of Everett Dance Theatre, where he specializes in designing and constructing many of the innovative props, set pieces, and untraditional projection surfaces used by Everett.


Dorothy Jungels, co-founder of Everett Dance Theatre. Dorothy received numerous fellowships, including the Choreographer’s Fellowship from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.


The Everett Dance Theatre’s performance, “Brain Storm”, will premiere January 14th and 15th at 8:00 PM, at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Combining dance, theater and visual art, Brain Storm explores the brain’s beauty and mystery through striking physicality and poetic imagery, the company’s trademark humor giving way to insightful, compelling stories of the human experience.