‘There is a fine line between genius and madness’

by Richard Alleyne

There is a fine line between genius and madness.

Scientists have found that genius and madness share the same genes.

Psychologists have discovered that creative people have a gene in common which is also linked to psychosis and depression.

They believe that the findings could explain why “geniuses” like Vincent van Gogh and Sylvia Plath displayed such destructive behaviour.

The gene, which is called neuregulin 1, plays a role in brain development but a variant of it is also associated with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

To measure creativity, the volunteers were asked to respond to a series of unusual questions. For example: “Just suppose clouds had strings attached to them which hang down to earth. What would happen?”

They were scored based on the originality and flexibility of their answers.

The volunteers also completed a questionnaire regarding their lifetime creative achievements before the researchers took blood samples.

The report concluded: “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 volunteers with a different form of the gene.”

The head researcher Dr Szabolcs Kéri said that this is the first study to show that a genetic variant associated with psychosis may have some beneficial functions.

He said: “Molecular factors that are loosely associated with severe mental disorders but are present in many healthy people may have an advantage enabling us to think more creatively.”

The study was published in the journal of Psychological Science.

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6 Comments on “‘There is a fine line between genius and madness’”

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