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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Creativity, Genetics, and Madness: Oh My!

Ewen Callaway writes:

We're all familiar with the stereotype of the tortured artist. Salvador Dali's various disorders and Sylvia Plath's depression spring to mind. Now new research seems to show why: a genetic mutation linked to psychosis and schizophrenia also influences creativity.

The finding could help to explain why mutations that increase a person's risk of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar syndrome have been preserved, even preferred, during human evolution, says Szabolcs Kéri, a researcher at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, who carried out the study.

Kéri examined a gene involved in brain development called neuregulin 1, which previous studies have linked to a slightly increased risk of schizophrenia. Moreover, a single DNA letter mutation that affects how much of the neuregulin 1 protein is made in the brain has been linked to psychosis, poor memory and sensitivity to criticism.

About 50 per cent of healthy Europeans have one copy of this mutation, while 15 per cent possess two copies.

link: Artistic tendencies linked to 'schizophrenia gene' - health - 16 July 2009 - New Scientist


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