By ROB WAUGH
PUBLISHED: 06:45 EST, 4 June 2012 | UPDATED: 06:53 EST, 4 June 2012
- Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder more frequent in highly gifted people
- 20 or 30 studies prove link
- Studies on Swedish 16-year-olds prove intelligent teenagers more likely to develop disorders
There IS a link between creative genius and madness – with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder frequent in highly creative and intelligent people.
The idea was investigated by a panel of scientists who had all suffered some form of mental disorder.
Kay Redfield Jamison of John Hopkins school of Medicine, who suffers from bipolar disorder, said that intelligence tests on Swedish 16-year-olds had shown that highly intelligent children were most likely to go on to develop the disorder.
Detail of Self portrait with Bandaged Ear painted by Vincent van Gogh: Scientists say there is a link between highly gifted individuals and mental illness
‘They found that people who excelled when they were 16 years old were four times as likely to go on to develop bipolar disorder,’ says Jamison.
Jamison has devoted her life to researching and writing about bipolar disorder, since being diagnosed with it herself in young adulthood.
In the discussion at New York’s World Science Fair, the panel discussed more than 20 papers which made an explicit link between high intelligence and creativity.
Painter Van Gogh and author Jack Kerouac were both hailed as geniuses but displayed self-destructive behaviour.
What’s less clear is why human beings might have evolved this trait.
‘The notion of a ‘tortured genius’ or ‘mad scientist’ may be more than a romantic aberration,’ says the World Science Fair.
‘Research shows that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia correlate with high creativity and intelligence, raising tantalizing questions: What role does environment play in the path to mental illness?
Painter Van Gogh and author Jack Kerouac were both hailed as geniuses but displayed self-destructive behaviour
Are so-called mental defects being positively selected for in the gene pool? Where’s the line between gift and deficit?’
Nobel prize-winning mathematician John Nash, portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind, has also had a life-long struggle with schizophrenia.
Previous research has hinted that much of the ‘link’ is created by one particular gene, known as DARPP-32, which links genius with madness.
Three quarters of people inherit a version of the DARPP-32 gene, which enhances the brain’s ability to think by improving information processing by the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that orchestrates thoughts and actions.