The possible link between creativity and mental illness is well documented, but new research out of Budapest, Hungary postulates what could be a genetic link between the two. Szabolcs Keri, a psychiatrist and scientist, says he hopes the research will show that individuals with mild forms of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be, and have been, valuable, contributing members of society. Dr. Keri said although schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are profoundly damaging illnesses, milder forms of the same conditions could make individuals afflicted think more originally and creatively.
The Great Ludwig van Beethoven, author Virginia Woolf and Pink Floyd leader - Syd Barrett are just a few of the artists thought to have suffered from mental illness which could have aided to their creative genius.
The Hungarian research looks at Neuregulin 1, a protein in the gene NRG1 often found in the mentally ill. It helps control the flow of information between neurons, directing them into the frontal lobe of the brain; the part responsible for personality, intellect, creativity and long-term planning.
Using commonly recognized standardized tests to measure the creativity and IQ of two hundred "highly intellectual" Hungarians, it was found that those who had the elevated Neuregulin 1 protein answered questions more creatively and "thought outside the box."
"It would be much too simple to say that people with Neuregulin 1 are automatically more creative the brain is more complex than that," Dr. Keri said. "But you could say that, by easing the flow of information to the frontal lobe, Neuregulin 1 contributes to greater creativity and intellectual capacity."
Doctor Keri claims that the NRG1 gene, which is present in both highly intelligent, creative people and those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, has been selected through evolution because it is useful to have members of a society who can think creatively.
"Some researchers say that it's a very romantic point of view that madness and creativity are related, but I don't think it's just romantic, I think its reality," said Dr. Keri.
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