Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_95075

Genetic link to creativity and mental illness reported

15 June 2015
Appeared in BioNews 806

Researchers say they have identified a genetic link between 'creativity' and the risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The study found that people with certain gene variants linked to the psychiatric disorders are more likely to be in creative professions or belong to a creative society, suggesting that the two could share some genetic overlap.

'Creative people may have a genetic predisposition towards thinking differently,' claims Dr Robert Power, the lead author of the study published last week in Nature Neuroscience. 'This, when combined with other harmful biological or environmental factors, could lead to mental illness.'

The researchers used medical and genetic information from more than 86,000 people from Iceland to identify gene variants associated with at least a one-third increase in the risk of bipolar disorder and a two-fold increase in the risk of schizophrenia.

They found that these variants were 17 percent more common among people belonging to one of the national societies for artists, writers, dancers, musicians or actors.

A review of 35,000 people in Sweden and the Netherlands also found that people identified as creative, either by their profession or according to questionnaire results, were 25 percent more likely to carry the variants.

Critics of the research, however, have questioned the importance of the findings. In particular, the genetic variants in question only accounted for around 0.25 percent of the variation in people's creativity.

Dr David Cutler, Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine, explains, 'If the distance between me, the least artistic person you are going to meet, and an actual artist is one mile, these variants appear to collectively explain 13 feet of that distance. Most of the distance between the artist and me is therefore due to other genetic variants and/or environmental factors.'

Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Albert Rothenberg of Harvard University agrees. Dismissing the findings, he notes: 'Creative people are generally not mentally ill.' He also questions the study's definition of 'creativity', arguing that 'belonging to an artistic society, or working in art or literature does not prove a person is creative'.

Dr Kari Steffanson, CEO of deCODE, which supplied genetic data to the study, concedes that the genetic link is far from strong. He nevertheless considers any link to be important. He says the findings suggest that while creativity 'is very important for our society... it comes at a risk to the individual, and one percent of the population pays the price.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
29 January 2018 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Parental genes can influence their children, even if the genes are not passed down at all, according to a new study...
21 March 2016 - by Sarah Gregory 
A rare mutation in a single gene increases the risk of schizophrenia by 35 times, a new study has found...
1 February 2016 - by Helen Robertson 
A gene involved in managing the connections between brain cells appears to be associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia...
24 August 2015 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
A high childhood IQ is linked to an increased risk of bipolar disorder in adulthood, according to new research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry...
8 June 2015 - by Paul Waldron 
New research into schizophrenia has identified genetic mutations in patients which affect the balance between chemical signalling systems in the brain...
22 September 2014 - by Chris Hardy 
Schizophrenia might in fact be a group of related but distinct genetic disorders - a study has identified specific gene clusters that can be linked to eight clinically different types of the psychiatric illness...
28 July 2014 - by Isobel Steer 
More than 100 genetic regions have been found to be involved in schizophrenia, many of which were not previously linked to the condition...
27 January 2014 - by Chris Hardy 
Genetic mutations implicated in autism and intellectual difficulties may also underlie schizophrenia, say researchers...
4 March 2013 - by Dr Anna Cauldwell 
Five of the most common psychiatric disorders share genetic risk factors, an international study published in the Lancet has found...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.