Creativity linked to mental health

Posted By News On May 18, 2010 - 2:19am

New research shows a possible explanation for the link between mental health and creativity. By studying receptors in the brain, researchers at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have managed to show that the dopamine system in healthy, highly creative people is similar in some respects to that seen in people with schizophrenia.

High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual pr bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing.

"We have studied the brain and the dopamine D2 receptors, and have shown that the dopamine system of healthy, highly creative people is similar to that found in people with schizophrenia," says associate professor Fredrik Ullén from Karolinska Institutet's Department of Women's and Children's Health.

Just which brain mechanisms are responsible for this correlation is still something of a mystery, but Dr Ullén conjectures that the function of systems in the brain that use dopamine is significant; for example, studies have shown that dopamine receptor genes are linked to ability for divergent thought. Dr Ullén's study measured the creativity of healthy individuals using divergent psychological tests, in which the task was to find many different solutions to a problem.

"The study shows that highly creative people who did well on the divergent tests had a lower density of D2 receptors in the thalamus than less creative people," says Dr Ullén. "Schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 density in this part of the brain, suggesting a cause of the link between mental illness and creativity."

The thalamus serves as a kind of relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning.

"Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus," says Dr Ullén, and explains that this could a possible mechanism behind the ability of healthy highly creative people to see numerous uncommon connections in a problem-solving situation and the bizarre associations found in the mentally ill.

"Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box," says Dr Ullén about his new findings.

Publication: 'Thinking Outside a Less Intact Box: Thalamic Dopamine D2 Receptor Densities Are Negatively Related to Psychometric Creativity in Healthy Individuals', Örjan de Manzano, Simon Cervenka, Anke Karabanov, Lars Farde & Fredrik Ullén, PLoS ONE, online 17 May 2010.

Creativity is definitely linked to mental health...and mental health is related to your diet, genes and other. What we need are exceptionally strong yet safe cognitive enhancing food and beverages for daily consumption - not the crap stimulant stuff being pushed.

I've had good results with the occasional use of Vinpocetine, a supplement you can get pretty cheaply. It's supposed to assist cerebral metabolism or something. I wouldn't exceed 30mg if you're trying it out for the first time.

but you might be interested in further researching nootropics, or "smart drugs".

The article said crtvy was inversely linked to mental health.

It makes sense to me that mental health is related to creativity...If I make an example of what "creativity" in fact is(or as I percieve it); the ability to think outside the box, if you will...or the ability to think of something in a completely new way and thus create something new...or to be able to create a way in doing something beyond the ways you have been tought to do that particular thing..........hmmm a bit hard to describe... (my english is not the best, I'm from Iceland)
Anyway, my point here is that often people who do this what I just explained. Present a new approach to something(this could be art, music...really just anything). The approach is then often percieved by the unfamiliar as "strange" or "weird" or even "insane" just because it's something new to them. Therefore an action of creativity is often percieved as mad to people who do not understand it because it's something they haven't been "thought" to know.
Maybe we should renew our understanding of mental health...
cheers...hope you get were I'm going here


Try to think outside your box :). Be creative, be schizophrenic ^_^

I think people read a hair too much into the concept of "creativity". What is often thought of as creative are those works which occur to people who's minds are outside of, or on the edge of, the bounds we call "normal". We think of these people as creative geniuses when much of what they produce was obvious to them due to their skewed view on things.

This article pretty much says as much but I just think it's worth noting that "creativity" isn't really a brain condition or something you're born with. There's no real convenient definition that also happens to be exhaustive, given the highly subjective nature of what makes a person or work "creative".

Perhaps you don't know what 'creativity' is because you've never had an original thought?

Based on your narrative, it sounds like 'normal' = 'accountant'.


"There's no real convenient definition"

Actually the MBTI does a pretty good job of defining "inventors" and "performers"


It (Creativity linked to mental health) is really a rich post and very helpful for the sufferers as well as researchers too. I am expecting more posts on similar issues again.



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