Deep in the Dopamine Sea
A new study by researchers at the Karolinska Insitutet in Sweden has revealed a strong similarity between dopamine production in healthy, "highly creative" brains with that of schizophrenics. Previous research has shown that high creative skills are more common in people with mental illness in the family, and creativity is also linked to a higher risk of the development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Previous research has also found that certain psychological traits, like making unusual associations, are also shared by schizophrenics and those with a healthy, highly creative brain.
Now, new research has shown that the brain's dopamine D2 receptors in a healthy, creative brain are strikingly similar to that of a person suffering with schizophrenia. It is unknown exactly to just which brain mechanisms are responsible for this correlation, but according to Doctor Fredrick Ullén of the Karolinksa Institutet, the functioning systems of the brain utilizing dopamine mean may be the key. Studies have shown that genes of dopamine receptors are linked to the ability for divergent thought. Dr. Ullén carried forth a study that measured the creativity of healthy individuals using divergent psychological tests with the task of finding many different solutions to a problem.
The study resulted in that those that did well on the test with the "highly creative brain" had a lower density of D2 receptors in the thalamus than less creative people. Similarly, schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 density in the same part of the brain, suggesting the link between mental illness and creativity. The thalamus serves as a relay center for the filtration of information before it reaches certain areas of the cortex, which is responsible for cognition and reasoning. Accordingly, if there are fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus, means that there are a lower degree of signal filtering causing a higher flow of information from the thalamus. This mechanism could be the correlation between "highly creative people to see numerous uncommon connections in problem-solving situations and the bizarre associations found in the mentally ill."
Image: "Eros ≥ Mimesis . Catharsis ²" by jef safi on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.