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Alberto Cucca

Art therapy for Parkinsonís Disease

Doctoral Programme in Neural and cognitive sciences

The creative process of art making may have significant therapeutic implications for individuals affected by Parkinsonís disease. Parkinsonís disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimerís dementia, affecting approximately 10 million people worldwide. Parkinsonís disease is characterized by the progressive appearance of highly disabling symptoms, such as slowness, postural abnormalities, and gait difficulties. In addition, patients with Parkinsonís may experience a broad array of non-motor features, including depression, anxiety, apathy, and visual deficits. Available pharmacological treatments are aimed at symptomatic management. While generally effective for some of the disease symptoms, these treatments do not address the underlying progression of the disease which eventually worsens over time, thus progressively reducing patientsí quality of life. In this setting, increasing experimental attention has been recently paid towards complementary approaches like art therapy considering their potential to improve patientís quality of life. An original research project was recently conducted at the department of Neurology of the New York University School of Medicine, including 18 patients with mild to moderate disease. The study was supported by the Kellar Family Foundation (grant ID#C17-00191) and led by Alberto Cucca M.D., a movement disorders neurologist who is also a first year PhD student at the doctoral program in Neural and Cognitive Neurosciences of the Department of Life Sciences of our University. The study examined the effects of 20 sessions of art therapy through an extensive battery of clinical, psychological, and behavioral assessments, including a characterization of patientsí ocular behavior by means of a dedicated eye-tracking device. Patients were also tested with resting-state functional MRI (fMRI), a sophisticated brain imaging technique investigating potential changes in neural functional connectivity induced by the treatment. Art therapy projects mostly involved the creation of visual artifacts, such as paintings, drawings, and murals. The preliminary results from the study were recently published in a specialized international peer-reviewed medical journal (link:

Following art therapy, significant improvements were noted in patientís visuospatial functions, eye-movements patterns, but also general motor function. Furthermore, an increased connectivity between neural networks involved in the processing of visual information was also observed (see figure). The authors hypothesized that the observed gains in patientsí motor functions may be driven by their improved perceptual skills. In other words, a more reliable and accurate visual perception induced by repeated art therapy training may explain, at least to some extent, why patientsí motor performance improved. These findings introduce the intriguing research question regarding the clinical link between perception and movement. The potential implications of Dr. Cuccaís project were also specifically highlighted by the opening editorial of the last issue of Parkinsonism and Related Disorders (see link: The next steps of Dr. Cuccaís PhD project will be aimed to characterize the specific effects induced by creative art interventions on patientsí motor function through different techniques involving dedicated computerized kinematic analyses.

Authors and affiliations

Alberto Cucca1,11,12, Alessandro Di Rocco2, Ikuko Acosta3, Mahya Beheshti4, Marygrace Berberian3, Hilary C. Bertisch4, Amgad Droby5, Tom Ettinger3, Todd E. Hudson4, Matilde Inglese5,6, Yoon J. Jung7, Daniella F. Mania1, Angelo Quartarone8, ohn-Ross Rizzo4,9,10, Kush Sharm1, Andrew Feigin1, Milton C. Biagioni1, M. Felice Ghilardi7,1
1The Marlene and Paolo Fresco Institute for Parkinsonís and Movement Disorders, Department of Neurology, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
2Department of Neurology, Zucker School of Medicine, Hofstra/Northwell Health, New York, NY,
3Department of Art and Art Professions, NYU Steinhardt, New York, NY, USA
4Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
5Department of Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA
6Department of Neurosciences, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, University of Genoa, Italy
7Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, City University of New York Medical School, New York, NY, USA
8Department of Biomedical, Dental Sciences and Morphological and Functional Images, University of Messina, Messina, Italy
9Department of Neurology, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA
10Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Tandon School of Engineering, Brooklyn, NY, USA
11Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
12Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Villa Margherita Fresco Parkinson Center, Vicenza, Italy


Alberto Cucca, email:


Alberto Cucca, Alessandro Di Rocco, Ikuko Acosta, Mahya Beheshti, Marygrace Berberian, Hilary C Bertisch, Amgad Droby, Tom Ettinger, Todd E Hudson, Matilde Inglese, Yoon J Jung, Daniella F Mania, Angelo Quartarone, John-Ross Rizzo, Kush Sharma, Andrew Feigin, Milton C Biagioni, M Felice Ghilardi
ďArt therapy for Parkinson's diseaseĒ
Parkinsonism and Related Disorders 84, 148-154 (2021)
DOI: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2021.01.013.

Informazioni aggiornate al: 31.5.2021 alle ore 09:38