Mad genius: Study suggests link between psychosis and creativity

Sep 28, 2009

Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear. Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven. History teems with examples of great artists acting in very peculiar ways. Were these artists simply mad or brilliant? According to new research reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, maybe both.

In order to examine the link between psychosis and creativity, psychiatrist Szabolcs Kéri of Semmelweis University in Hungary focused his research on neuregulin 1, a gene that normally plays a role in a variety of brain processes, including development and strengthening communication between neurons. However, a variant of this gene (or genotype) is associated with a greater risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

In this study, the researchers recruited volunteers who considered themselves to be very creative and accomplished. They underwent a battery of tests, including assessments for intelligence and creativity. To measure creativity, the volunteers were asked to respond to a series of unusual questions (for example, "Just suppose clouds had strings attached to them which hang down to earth. What would happen?") and were scored based on the originality and flexibility of their answers. They also completed a questionnaire regarding their lifetime creative achievements before the researchers took blood samples.

The results show a clear link between neuregulin 1 and creativity: Volunteers with the specific variant of this gene were more likely to have higher scores on the assessment and also greater lifetime creative achievements than volunteers with a different form of the gene. Kéri notes that this is the first study to show that a genetic variant associated with may have some beneficial functions.

He observes that "molecular factors that are loosely associated with severe mental disorders but are present in many healthy people may have an advantage enabling us to think more creatively." In addition, these findings suggest that certain genetic variations, even though associated with adverse health problems, may survive evolutionary selection and remain in a population's gene pool if they also have beneficial effects.

Source: Association for (news : web)

Explore further: Diet for your DNA: Novel nutrition plan sparks debate around data protection

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Odd behavior may lead to creativity

Sep 08, 2005

Researchers say they've found a quirky or socially awkward approach to life might be key to becoming a great artist, composer or inventor.

A walk in the park a day keeps mental fatigue away

Dec 18, 2008

If you spend the majority of your time among stores, restaurants and skyscrapers, it may be time to trade in your stilettos for some hiking boots. A new study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Ps ...

Recommended for you

New research software automates DNA analysis

Oct 20, 2014

At the core of medical research is problem-solving, which is exactly what two PhD scientists did when they set out to eliminate a common, time-consuming task performed in research laboratories around the world.

User comments : 10

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKLR
1.7 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2009
I got about half way through this short article and found myself laughing to hard to finish it.
irjsiq
3 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2009
Do you know of any groups in the Phoenix area that might be measuring levels of Cranial Activity . . . in order to establish 'Bench Marks' or reference 'Control' groups for inclusion in future studies?

Roy Stewart,
Phoenix AZ
Walid
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2009
I got about half way through this short article and found myself laughing to hard to finish it.


@RobertKLR
Can you tell us why so. The genetic link is one factor in determining psychosis and there are many factors to consider when talking about mental capacity or mental illness. This is one step in understanding the genetic factor to thought formation and cognition in its broad sense. I consider people like you as comment spammers because you only criticize without explanation. If you expect people to understand what you intend to say without saying, well, we don't have telepathic genes.
Smellyhat
4.7 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2009
Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven.


I give the writer extra marks for (a) insensitivity, and (b) failing to distinguish between major depression and psychosis.
Simonsez
3 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2009
Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven.


I give the writer extra marks for (a) insensitivity, and (b) failing to distinguish between major depression and psychosis.


"a variant of this gene (or genotype) is associated with a greater risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder"

The writer is not alleging that Sylvia Plath was psychotic. As evidenced in the quote above from the first paragraph, the argument is for all kinds of mental disorders, of which depression is certainly one and also part of bipolar disorder which is specifically mentioned.
kungfufrog
3 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2009
It's even moot whether Vincent cut off his own ear:

http://news.bbc.c...3650.stm
Never_Quit
4.3 / 5 (3) Sep 29, 2009
"Just suppose clouds had strings attached to them which hang down to earth. What would happen?"


We would all invest in them so that we could incorporate our housing market into them. Everyone would want a cloud of their very own. Many people would take out mortgages so that they could pay off their cloud over time. Bankers would purchase those cloud mortgages and organize them into Collateralized Debt Obligations. Investors would want a piece of the action. Eventually the brokers selling the clouds would not be able to finance the banks demand for CDOs. They would have to sell to under-privileged buyers just like Fannie Mac and Freddie Mae, and the cloud economy would sky rocket. Cash would rain down on everyone, and we would be happy (but only for a little while). Those mortgages would go bad and the cloud market would freeze. No one would want their cloud, and giants would climb down to go on killing sprees.
Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.
ruebi
not rated yet Oct 04, 2009
lol @ never quit

my answer was. "am i the only one who sees them."
otto1923
not rated yet Oct 04, 2009
Yah is this creativity as in inventing something useful or devising better ways of fashioning useful items, ie scientific or techno achievement; or is this artistic or aesthetic creativity of questionable worth as in Jackson pollock or 'piss christ' or buildings that don't work, which are best appreciated by borderline psychotics with money to waste? Who assigns value to 'their lifetime creative achievements' besides them? In other words is most of what we consider creativity only the pointless fiddling about of damaged minds?
otto1923
Oct 04, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
DesmondMurse
not rated yet Oct 05, 2009
I would cloud-joust personally.