Archive for Friday, May 21, 2010

Creative people’s brains similar to schizophrenics’ brains, study finds

May 21, 2010


Creative people may think broadly and make unusual associations because they, like schizophrenics, may be less able to filter out information, a Swedish study found.

Researchers at the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institute followed 13 healthy men and women who took creativity tests. The more solutions the participants found for a problem, the higher their creativity levels were. The researchers also studied images of the people’s brains.

The creative problem-solvers had a lower concentration of proteins that aid in the chemical transmission of information in the thalamus, the part of the brain that determines what data is relevant for reasoning, according to the study. That’s a trait commonly found in patients with schizophrenia, a mental illness whose symptoms include hallucinations, jumbled thoughts and paranoia.

“The question is how much is filtered away and how much does the thalamus allow to be put through” to the cortex, where reasoning takes place, said Fredrik Ullen, an associate professor at the institute, in a phone interview. “If you have more information in the cortex, you should be able to make more associations. You might see things that other people don’t.”

“We tend to think of psychiatric diseases as negative, as destructive,” he said. “But we can see that some traits or components of psychiatric disease may be useful.”

Researchers limited the number of study participants because of the high cost of taking brain images, Ullen said. The study was published in the journal PLoS One, a publication of the Public Library of Science, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization.


Multidisciplinary 8 years ago

And John Nash. And a whole lot of the kids they have been drugging for ADHD, etc, because 'they can't concentrate'. Leave the kids alone. Learn how to deal with their needs and teach them accordingly, don't drug them! It's funny, I used to compare the kids in class with similar hyperactive thought processes, that would go off on tangents, rapid speech, certain annoying personalities. If they were getting very good grades, this was acceptable. If they were not, they were the bad kids, trouble makers. Similar brains, perhaps just different 'environments' guiding that creativity?

whats_going_on 8 years ago

I agree. I think there have been studies done linking ADHD to TV watching and such. Perhaps the difference between the kids isn't that much, however the non-trouble makers, etc are pulling their behaviors from more creative, thought provoking areas (books, art, exercise, etc) instead of mindlessly watching TV or playing video games?

OBSERVER65 7 years, 10 months ago

I have ADD (not ADHD) so do 2 of my 3 kids. (the younger two--both late teens). I was not allowed to watch TV growing up, and I rarely watch now. My kids grew up without a TV/video games. We went to festivals, the zoo, museums, art galleries, plays, parks, day trips, hikes, biking, fishing, etc.etc. ADD, and ADHD are not to be attributed to watching too much "tube" or "gaming". (Although these activities should be monitored and engaged in infrequently, in my opinion). I feel society is really missing out on the typically highly creative aspects that seem to come with this. Oh, for the day that Montessori Education becomes mainstream! Everyone learning in a non-restrictive, supportive environment at their own pace...

Robert Rauktis 8 years ago

ADHD isn't the same as schizophrenia. Not even hand grenade range. Comparing apples and rocks as they're both round.

verity 8 years ago

Multi said, "And a whole lot of the kids they have been drugging for ADHD, etc, because 'they can't concentrate'." Granted, not exactly what the article was talking about, but I think it is still relevant.

verity 8 years ago

This article is very interesting and fits in with some other things I have read.

Well said, Multi. I think that everything else should be tried before drugs are used in any situation, especially when dealing with children. Creativity comes from absorbing everything you can and putting it together in different ways. It comes from not being afraid to be different, not accepting the status quo just because that is the way things are done. Obviously one needs to be able to fit into society, but society could often be a bit less judgmental of those who are different.

And drugs can cause permanent and often unwanted side effects.

Possibly (and this of course is my opinion only) the main difference between schizophrenics and other people is the ability to harness the processes and information and use them productively.

OBSERVER65 7 years, 10 months ago

I do agree that medication is over-used. I succumbed to the pressure of "drugging" my little buddy. He was in 4th grade. I do regret it, and feel his growth was stunted because of it. He is almost 19, now. Off meds for 3 years, and 5'5. My 16 year old son is 6'. I have terrible guilt on my head knowing that it is possible/likely i denied my older son his potential in physical growth. We are Artists, Musicians, Writers, and Dancers. We are highly adventurous, and are explorers. We have ADD.

Jaylee 8 years ago

I think someday the schizophrenics who can control and manually filter the information to whatever degree will rule the world!

Kirk Larson 8 years ago

Reminds me of Lewis Carrol who said, "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

verity 8 years ago

Surely you have a cuzin's story related to schizophrenia. I imagine moonshine and psychotropic drugs are an interesting combination. I await---

Paul R Getto 8 years ago

Interesting comments. As society 'progressed' and we crowded closer and closer together, it seems to me we narrowed the range of acceptability. As medicine 'improved' we found new drugs that would make people at least act quiet and leave others alone. Creativity and genius and eccentricity are, it appears, closely related. While it's a slightly different topic, I agree with other posters above. We are drugging our little boys into submission for the convenience of parents and teachers. Not all the 'cures' are right and we frankly have no idea what is going on in 'active' kids' brains. We just want them to shut up. Is is possible we are breeding and drugging some of the creativity out of our species?

denak 8 years ago

I think what the article says is a very real possiblity. If you look throughout history, a l ot of the most talented and creative people out there had mental illnesses. I think definitely it has something to do with how it is all filtered.

As for kids with ADHD, I somewhat disagree with some of the posters. I do think we are too quick to label our kids and to suggest medications but I have seen a lot of kids who truly need medications even to function. But I think most of the time, medication is only a third of the way to combat the "problem." The child also needs therapy as well as the adults in his or her life need to learn parenting skills that work for a child with these issues in a way that is healthy and constructive. And that includes teachers. Some of these problems would go away if we had class sizes that were smaller, more free time for our kids to just be kids and a realistic set of boundaries in place.


verity 8 years ago

I'm not arguing against drugs. I am advocating trying other methods first for any number of things. I was prescribed both replacement hormones and some heavy duty calcium only because of my age. Well, we know what happened with the replacement hormone thing and it turned out my bones are just fine. I've been on an antidepressant for stress and tiredness and the cure was worse than the disease. I'm not saying throwing all the drugs out is for everybody, but it certainly was for me.

whats_going_on 8 years ago

ok this is a little off topic, but this story made me think of this article on here.

verity 8 years ago

Reading this story and some of the comments also reminded me of an article that I read 35-40 years ago. At that time the general consensus was that our brains filtered out about 70 percent of the stimuli coming into it. The author's theory was that LSD blocked the filters and allowed about 70 percent of the stimuli through. I don't think he had any proof of this, just that it might be true. In light of this experiment, sounds like he might have had something there.

I'm with Jaylee---"I think someday the schizophrenics who can control and manually filter the information to whatever degree will rule the world!"

And I'm going to try to follow Lewis Carroll's example---thanks, Cappy, for that quote.

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