Genetic links between creativity, schizophrenia, and autism


How is creativity related to schizophrenia and autism? Psychology professor Scott Barry Kaufman looks at a scientific paper suggesting that "creativity and psychosis share genetic roots" in the context of his own research on how different forms of creativity might relate to the schizophrenia spectrum and the autism spectrum.

In short, there are connections but, as with most everything involving the human mind (and art), it's messy. From Scientific American:

(Our study's) findings suggest to me that the genes that link schizophrenia with artistic creativity are the genes that code for dopamine production, considering dopamine's role in cognitive exploration. There appears to be a sweet spot of dopamine, in that too little or too much dopamine production is detrimental to the generation of creative ideas. Artistic creativity is particularly well suited for individuals who are constantly in overdrive and need an outlet to explore a wide range of ideas, sensations, and emotions. This may also be why we see a link between bipolar disorder and creativity: hypomania and idea generation are positively associated with each other, and with dopamine production (see here, here, and here).

This does not mean, however, that the only form of creativity that matters is that of the artistic variety. Indeed, these studies that focus too much on artistic creativity may unfortunately be ignoring the real and important ways creativity can play out in other domains (e.g., biology, physics, math, business, humanitarian fields).

"How is Creativity Differentially Related to Schizophrenia and Autism?" (SciAm)

"Polygenic risk scores for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder predict creativity" by Power, et al. (PDF, Nature Neuroscience)