Monday, August 18, 2008

Participant Invitation

We are conducting a study called “Sparks of Creativity: The Influence of Epilepsy and Migraines in Art.” This research will evaluate how epilepsy and migraines can influence the creation of visual art. This study makes an objective evaluation of whether epilepsy and migraines can, in some circumstances, stimulate and enhance creativity. This research will help to better understand the creative process and how epilepsy and migraines impact the lives of people. Some of the World’s most creative minds are thought to have been influenced by epilepsy and/or migraines, such as Michelangelo, Lewis Carroll, Vincent van Gogh and Giorgio de Chirico. There were no modern EEGs or brain scans during their lives to affirm a neurological diagnosis. This research will serve as a foundation to evaluate whether artists had epilepsy based on comparisons with the artwork and writing of living artists who are confirmed to have epilepsy and/or migraines by modern methods of diagnosis.

We are inviting artists, by hobby or by trade, who are 18 or older and can communicate in English to participate in this international study. We are also inviting family members of artists with epilepsy and/or migraines and artists with other medical conditions to participate as part of important groups for comparison. Family members do not need to be artists in order to be highly valuable contributors to this study.

This is an interdisciplinary study conducted by the University of Melbourne and St. Vincent’s Health. This research is part of a PhD thesis of Jim Chambliss for a dual degree in creative arts and medicine. Dr. Mark Cook of St. Vincent’s Health and the University of Melbourne, School of Medicine is a principle researcher in this study. Dr. Barbara Bolt of the Victoria College of Art, University of Melbourne and Dr. David Williams of the University of Melbourne, School of Physiology are supervisors of Jim Chambliss and co-researchers. Dr. Jaya Pinikahana of the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria is also a co-researcher.

There are three stages in this study. Stage 1 is an anonymous review of two brief drawings, a written summary about one’s artistic influences and the review of 10 images of existing artwork. Stage 2 involves the completion of a survey and interviews for a more personal understanding of the art, medical conditions and lives of selected participants. Stage 3 will include one or more art exhibitions and publications. Participants in the comparison groups of family members and artists with other medical conditions are only asked to complete parts of the study that are relative, according to their experiences with epilepsy or migraines and whether they are artists. There is no obligation to participate in Stages 2 or 3 after completing Stage 1. Participants can withdraw from the study at any time. Participants can remain anonymous. Participants have an opportunity to display their art, while retaining ownership and copyright interests.

If you wish to participate in the study or know of people who may be interested then please contact Jim Chambliss at or see our web site at

The ethics approval numbers are HREC-A 044/06 for St. Vincent’s Health and 060351X2 for the University of Melbourne.

Comments about Sparks of Creativity:

Betsy Blondin, Editor, Migraine Expressions

“Throughout my nearly 40-year migraine journey, the most helpful milestones have been discovering artwork, reading migraine articles and books, and sharing the complexities of this disease by reading about and discussing experiences with others. In fact, a real epiphany years ago for me was happening upon a Smithsonian magazine article about migraine that included artwork. I still carry those images in my head because it was the first time I could truly “see” what I had and connect with others like me. My mother has five daughters, three of whom have migraine, and the first thing she said about the images and words in Migraine Expressions was how absolutely “flabbergasted” she was to finally grasp what her daughters had been trying to describe all these years.

That’s why I find the "Sparks of Creativity Study" about epilepsy, migraine and the visual arts so critical and fascinating. It’s a shared desire for awareness and understanding by people without migraine or epilepsy and for understanding what is happening within ourselves and what I call our “brain glitches.” Many migraineurs have described to me a surge of creativity or hyper brain activity they experience before or during a migraine, which may actually be there all the time! Jim’s story is amazing and I hope you will contribute to his important work.”