Karolinska Institutet logo Creativity may be regarded as a gift for all, but a recent study conducted by the Karolinska Institutet apparently claims that, there may be a link between mental health and creativity. It seems that people with excellent creative skills come from a family whose members could be facing mental illness. It has been suggested that people who are more creative can possibly face mental ill health.

In order to undertake this study, the authors thoroughly analyzed the receptors in the brain. They then concluded that, the dopamine system in healthy, highly creative people is alike to that seen in people with schizophrenia, in some respects. The authors revealed that, highly creative people are at a higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Even some particular physiological traits, like the ability to make unusual pr bizarre associations appear to be faced by both schizophrenics and healthy individuals who seem to be highly creative.

“We have studied the brain and the dopamine D2 receptors, and have shown that the dopamine system of healthy, highly creative people is similar to that found in people with schizophrenia,” explained Fredrik Ullén, associate professor from Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Woman and Child Health

However, the investigators are not updated about the brain mechanisms, which are responsible for this relation between creativity and mental health. Yet, Dr Ullén enlightened that, the function of systems in the brain which use dopamine is phenomenal. The study reveals that, dopamine receptor genes correlate with the ability for divergent thought. During the study, investigators conducted divergent psychological tests, to measure the creativity of healthy individuals. In this test, a task was included wherein the individual had to find various solutions to a particular issue.

Dr Ullén further quoted, “The study shows that highly creative people who did well on the divergent tests had a lower density of D2 receptors in the thalamus than less creative people. Schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 density in this part of the brain, suggesting a cause of the link between mental illness and creativity.”

It is assumed that, before information reaches the areas of the cortex, thalamus that acts as a relay centre filters it. The thalamus may even be responsible for cognition and reasoning. Dr Ullén shared that if there are few D2 receptors present in the thalamus it probably means that there is a lower degree of signal filtering. So there is a higher flow of information from the thalamus. It is thus possible that, this mechanism is behind the connection between creativity and mental ill health.