Genes linked to creativity could increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to a new research.
Previous studies have identified a link between creativity and psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, but it has remained unclear whether this association is due to common genes.
Creativity is difficult to define for scientific purposes, so researchers consider a creative person to be someone who takes novel approaches requiring cognitive processes that are different from prevailing modes of thought or expression.
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are disorders of thoughts and emotions, which means that those affected show alterations in cognitive and emotional processing.
Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London examined genetic risk scores in a sample of 86,292 individuals from the general population of Iceland, in collaboration with researchers from deCODE Genetics, who provided the data.
Creative individuals were defined as those belonging to the national artistic societies of actors, dancers, musicians, visual artists and writers.
Researchers found that genetic risk scores for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were significantly higher in those defined as creative individuals.
"By knowing which healthy behaviours, such as creativity, share their biology with psychiatric illnesses we gain a better understanding of the thought processes that lead a person to become ill and how the brain might be going wrong," said Robert Power, first author from the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at the IoPPN.
"Our findings suggest that creative people may have a genetic predisposition towards thinking differently which, when combined with other harmful biological or environmental factors, could lead to mental illness," Power said.
The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.