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, 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. 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 creativity assessment and also greater lifetime creative achievements than were volunteers with a different form of the gene. Kéri notes that this is the first study to show that a genetic variant associated with psychosis may have some beneficial functions.
February 22, 2011