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Brain Damage A Path To More Creativity?

Brain damage may be a key to one artist's success.

Three years ago, Alison Silva painted in a style she told CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston was "childlike and simple."

But that all changed when the modestly successful painter began suffering from a brain tumor.

Pinkston reported on The Early Show Friday that doctors found a growth pressing against the left side of the 33-year-old North Bergen, N.J. woman's brain. The tumor resulted in a few side effects: Silva began having distorted visions and migraines -- and began painting much better.

Her artistic sensibility, she said, became more complex and sophisticated, especially as seen in the work, "The Secret of Mannaz".

"I was even stunned when I painted it," Silva said.

Silva's agent, Ross Brodar, told Pinkston Silva's paintings, which sold for around $1,000 prior to the brain damage, are now in demand, selling for around $10,000 each.

It's rare, but not unheard of, Pinkston reported, for brain damage to foster creativity. In 2003, Sandy Allen, of Seattle, discovered her artistic ability after a brain tumor was removed.

Dr. Raj Shrivastava, a neurosurgeon at New York's St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital said, "Anecdotally, we often hear about people who have improvement in function after strokes, tumor surgery and/or just brain trauma."

But doctors can't say what the exact connection is between changes in the brain and creativity, or how it works.

"It still remains to be determined based on our science and what we see," said Shrivastava. "I would call it a medical mystery ... for sure."

Pinkston reported Silva has no plans to have her tumor removed, because she worries about how it would change her.

"I deal with my migraines," Silva said. "I have no choice. I'm almost forced to just let it go. I mean, just keep painting."

Silva's story was featured in the documentary, "The Artists' Sanctuary," by Dog Day Productions. For more information, click here.