From John Ray's shorter notes

June 16, 2015

Arty people tend to be a bit mad

The original heading on this report was: "Creativity and psychosis share a genetic source".  But that wrongly inflates artistic endeavour.  There are many types of creativity and the most important type of creativity is scientific and technological creativity -- which can transform not only individual lives but also nations and civilizations.  Artistic creativity is primarily for entertainment.

And there are many quite unrelated types of creativity even within the artistic field.  I know of no great composers, for instance, who are also great graphic artists.  So the report below is of interest but great caution should be exercised in drawing generalizations from it.

And, as ever, we should heed the classic caution that correlation is not causation.  The sort of creativity that was studied tends to be associated with Leftist loyalties so it is possible that it was the Leftism rather than the creativity which produced the correlation with unfortunate  mental states.  Lack of reality contact is the defining element of psychosis and that lack seems to be almost routine among Leftists.  Perhaps the only difference between Leftism and madness is one of degree.  One certainly gets that feeling when reading anything "postmodern"

Artistic creativity may share genetic roots with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to a study published on Monday. The research, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, delves into a well-known genetic database—the deCODE library of DNA codes derived from samples provided by the population of Iceland.

The authors first compared genetic and medical data from 86,000 Icelanders, establishing a DNA signature that pointed to a doubled risk for schizophrenia and an increase of a third for bipolar disorder.  The next step was to look at the genomes of people engaged in artistic work.

Those samples came from more than 1,000 volunteers who were members of Iceland's national societies of visual arts, theatre, dance, writing and music.

Members of these organisations were 17 percent likelier than non-members to have the same genetic signature, the study found. The finding was supported by four studies in the Netherlands and Sweden covering around 35,000 people, comparing individuals in the general public and those in artistic occupations. Those investigations used somewhat different parameters but found the probability was even higher, at 23 percent.

"We are here using the tools of modern genetics to take a systematic look at a fundamental aspect of how the brain works," said Kari Stefansson, head of deCODE Genetics, who led the study.  "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," he said in a news release.


Go to John Ray's Main academic menu
Go to Menu of longer writings
Go to John Ray's basic home page
Go to John Ray's pictorial Home Page
Go to Selected pictures from John Ray's blogs