A new study reveals that there is a prospect of an overlap between genetic components which result in an individual’s creativity and some psychiatric disorders.
The study involved examining genetic material from more than 86,000 people in Iceland and identified the genetic variants that had link with a heightened risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Then the researchers dug deeper into variants in a group which consists of more than a 1,000 people who had been members of national societies of artists such as actors, dancers, visual arts, musicians and writers in Iceland.
The results of the study revealed that people belonging from these artistic societies had 17% more chances of variants connected with mental health conditions compared to general people.
Study author Kari Stefansson, the founder and CEO of deCODE, a genomic analysis company, stated, “The results of this study should not have come as a surprise, because to be creative, you have to think differently from the crowd. And we had previously shown that carriers of genetic factors that predispose to schizophrenia do so.”
This research also looked into the association between psychiatric disorder and creativity from different information gathered from previous studies which involved 35,000 people from Netherlands and Sweden. That study also included people working in other fields of visuals arts, music and theatre, writers and dancers along with other professions eventually reflecting that people involved in creative professions had been 25% more likely to carry genetic variants related to psychiatric disorders compared to people of other professions.
Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved in the study said, “The new study is partially confirming long-held beliefs about commonalities between creativity and psychosis.”
However, he also said, “The authors don’t necessarily define what kind of creativity they are talking about. There is a difference between people who may identify themselves as being creative, and people who actually work in creative professions.”
“Creative thinking occurs in rational, conscious frames of mind, not altered or transformed states,” Manevitz said. Therefore, having a full-fledged psychosis, in which an individual’s rationality is altered, does not contribute to creativity.
Nevertheless, if a person had a family member who had a serious psychiatric disorder, the genetic variants that this person carries may interpret into a “diluted” form of a mental illness, that could in fact be contributing to to creativity, if the traits are mild enough that they do not get in the way with the person’s ability think rationally, Manevitz said.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.