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Fine line between genius and insanity: study

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 18 May 2010, 11:38

Published: 18 May 2010 11:38 GMT+02:00

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It is previously known that highly creative abilities are somewhat more common in people who have familial history of mental illness and thus carry a greater risk of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Researchers at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute have now sought to explain this link by studying receptors in the thalamic region of the brain.

"We have studied the brain and a certain type of receptor, known as dopamine D2 receptors, and we have shown that the dopamine system in healthy highly creative people is similar to that found in schizophrenics," Dr.Fredrik Ullén, who led the study at the Department of Women's and Children's Health at the institute, told The Local on Tuesday.

The study, penned by Ullén and Örjan de Manzano, and entitled Thinking Outside a Less Intact Box, indicates that certain characteristics, such as being able to make bizarre and unusual associations are common to both schizophrenics and healthy highly creative people.

"Our study indicates that certain characteristics of psychological illness can benefit those who are otherwise psychological healthy," Ullén explained.

"You could say that this study proves that genius does in fact border on insanity, but people diagnosed with psychological illness can not be highly creative, this is important to underline," he said.

While Fredrik Ullén explains that while the exact nature of the mechanisms in the brain which impact on this link are as yet unknown, the brain's dopamine system could provide a feasible explanation.

Story continues below…

"A lower reading, common to both highly creative people and schizophrenics, may afford a greater richness of thought, less filtering of information and thus the ability to make more associations, in more ways. Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box."

The study identified "highly creative people" with the help of psychological testing which among other things assessed ability to apply multiple uses to objects and find a greater number of solutions to a problem.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:18 May 18, 2010 by scandinavian leather
"Fine line between genius and insanity: study"

A random reading of thelocal's forum reveals that nothing could be truer
13:32 May 18, 2010 by here for the summer
Great Article ..

love this excerpt . " Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box."
14:51 May 18, 2010 by Åskar
@scandinavian leather, do you honestly mean that postings here bear traces of geniality?
16:12 May 18, 2010 by eZee.se
Its true, i have at times been called both, by people here, my ex girlfriend and a whole bunch of others..
16:43 May 18, 2010 by sendia
It explanes dali!
17:01 May 18, 2010 by scandinavian leather

Geniality is described as the quality of someone being pleasant or agreeable.

I was not referring to that long gone trait, nor was the article. I was merely suggesting that a casual review of the postings in the forum reveal hints of what can only be described as sheer genius.

To wit:

Post #38 of the thread on the most influential person in human history.

If you require examples of the insanity aspect, let me know.
19:57 May 18, 2010 by zeero
It's always funny when Swedish talks about boxes... this country is one big mind box thinking machine... the Square root of this research = Swedish thinking...
09:19 May 19, 2010 by karex
I disagree with the assumption that creativy=genius. One is not necessarily synonymous with the other. On another note, I thought that it was common knowledge that geniuses are crazy. I've known quite a few and they all had several screws missing.
11:54 May 19, 2010 by AndreaGerak
My 2 cents: http://www.thelocal.se/blogs/stuckinstockholm/2010/05/19/think-outside-the-box
20:30 May 19, 2010 by bichito
Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 19 2010

I have a Professor at Social Sciences Faculty depending of the University of Buenos Aires whose name is Doctor Rubén Dri. In fact I admire him as well as all his students for his intelligence doing "Sociology of Religion".

In fact he knows many idioms related with the Old Testament and his thinking about Marxism conducts this Doctor to believe that my Lord, Jesus, was in fact a revolutionare and his apostles a political group.

He has written many books on these topics which are really important. Try to get them. In fact he has solvently explained the behavior of the Catholic Church during our last dictatorship in many of those texts.

But all the lines has led him to insane conclusions that are making insane thoughts in his students except me because I am daily parishioner at my church and I know that Jesus as many things in life has to be understood with the heart, not with the mind.

Poor Doctor Rubén Dri should nobody gives him a glass of spiritual water at the end of his life. He is crazy.

Contador Ricardo Alberto Zavi

Argentine Citizen ID 11091375

00:59 May 21, 2010 by Toonie
"Our study indicates that certain characteristics of psychological illness can benefit those who are otherwise psychological healthy," Ullén explained.

"You could say that this study proves that genius does in fact border on insanity, but people diagnosed with psychological illness can not be highly creative, this is important to underline," he said.

So certain characteristics of psychological illness may look similar to certain characteristics of genius or creativity, but won't result in creativity if you're psychologically ill rather than being highly creative. Go on, pick the bones out of that.
17:31 May 24, 2010 by geekgirl
"You could say that this study proves that genius does in fact border on insanity, but people diagnosed with psychological illness can not be highly creative, this is important to underline," he said.

Ullén obviously has no explanation for people like Dr. John Nash, a US mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia since his early college years, and despite stopping to take his medications, he was awarded the Nobel Price in 1994.
20:20 January 31, 2011 by Skydott
Hi! Sont know if anyone will read this but its worth a try,

I believe this article or scientific research has some truth in it. But the conclusion seems rather unwise. It kinda makes no sence. I not sure how to explain but I will try.

I have always been a normal kid, and I have always been very creative. Both in art and music. Yet after I started smoking pot I eventually got a psychosis and later on got the diagnose paranoia schizofrenia. The psychiatrist used perhaps 30 minutes to come to that conclusion and it was all based on my own story about my own experience of the psychosis that I had a few months before our session. To make a long story short, I had hallucinations. I saw imaginary things and I heard imaginary things (positiv symptoms) as well as believing things that werent true. (negative symptoms) It all were tangled up in a massiv fear/anxiaty, too little sleep and no food... It kinda happened very gradually.. so I reall believed all the things I experienced really was happening. You have to go through it yourself to really understand it.

He used his list, it was like eight factors that had to be present in my sickness"picture" for me to qualify as a schizofrenic person.

So... it might be that my D2 receptor was low both before the sickness, while I was sick, and after. But I always were creative. Infact I could correct the teacher before the class and they had to change the chords in the musicpiece we performed on a consert at school.. and that was during my sickness. Noone on the school noticed me getting sick until I was locked inside my cars trunk in the middle of the winter, wearing only my panties. They found me after a day had gone by.. (noone knows me ear so it doesnt bother me to tell you about it)

I dont really have a big conclusion.. but I cant really see that the swedish research proves that there is a fine line between genious and insanity. Maybe there is? I dont know... but this is like saying animals and humans drink milk thats why they both have good teeths.. heh, but that doesnt mean its a fine line between having beatiful and scary teeth.. lol, maybe not my best comparison but I how you see my point..

16:21 March 20, 2012 by michaelsmp
I disagree with the assertion that somone diagnosed as schizoprenic can not be creative. I have struggle with schizoprenia since the age of 7, or so my doctor assumes. I have been tested various times and have an IQ of 163. I also write poetry to help convey my emotions to those who can't understand, Many of my friends who are bipolar have great creative abilities in art, poetry and photgraphy.

Being scizoprenic does pose a great challenge at times, but medication are being developed that regulate dopamine and the D2 receptor, I am currently taking paliperidone (Invega) 12mg daily and will son be converted to monthly injections. I am finally rid of many of the hallucinations and dellusions, but I fear my poetry has suffered. So, all in all my sickness is the fuel of my creativity.
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