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Creative people are just high functioning schizophrenics

New research shows a possible explanation for the link between mental health and creativity. By studying receptors in the brain, researchers at Karolinska Institute have managed to show that the dopamine system in healthy, highly creative people is similar in some respects to that seen in people with schizophrenia.

High creative skills have been shown to be somewhat more common in people who have mental illness in the family. Creativity is also linked to a slightly higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual or bizarre associations are also shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. And now the correlation between creativity and mental health has scientific backing.

"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," says associate professor Fredrik Ullen from Karolinska Institutet's Department of Women's and Children's Health, co-author of the study that appears in the journal PLoS ONE.

Just which brain mechanisms are responsible for this correlation is still something of a mystery, but Dr Ullen conjectures that the function of systems in the brain that use dopamine is significant; for example, studies have shown that dopamine receptor genes are linked to ability for divergent thought. Dr Ullen's study measured the creativity of healthy individuals using divergent psychological tests, in which the task was to find many different solutions to a problem.

"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," says Dr Ullen. "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."
The thalamus serves as a kind of relay centre, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning.

"Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus," says Dr Ullen, and explains that this could a possible mechanism behind the ability of healthy highly creative people to see numerous uncommon connections in a problem-solving situation and the bizarre associations found in the mentally ill.

"Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box," says Dr Ullen about his new findings.

Posted By Jedi Mind Traveler at 2010-05-31 19:16:13 permalink | comments
Tags: schizophrenia dopamine creativity
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guest. : 2011-01-17 15:56:07
You just haven't lived until you can see air.
anon. : 2010-08-14 21:27:55
perhaps schizophrenics, are in fact very creative but just were pushed over the edge. I was indeed over the edge for a while and it can be very, eye opening lets say. the mental don't just think about nonsense you know.
Anonymous. : 2010-06-10 08:38:37
" In particular he thinks anything sounding like magic is pre, like any kind of paranormal evidence, and I think he discounts most shamanism as mere pre-rational magic."

What's more (and germane): he considers magic "pre," and the siddhis "trans!"

Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-06-09 19:32:38
Very true, Anonymous. And whatever he dislikes is "pre". In particular he thinks anything sounding like magic is pre, like any kind of paranormal evidence, and I think he discounts most shamanism as mere pre-rational magic.
Anonymous. : 2010-06-09 15:45:10
"My personal opinion is that Ken Wilber hasn't done very many if any psychedelics, and some of these would really throw some wrenches into his mind. "

This is true; I once heard him say in an interview that he didn't speak about psychedelics much because he didn't have much experience with them.

His own work is pretty heavily influenced by eastern non-dual traditions, and I think that comes through pretty strongly in his writings. As an example, I think what he's written on the Pre/Trans fallacy is interesting but he falls short of every really making a cogent argument as to what is "pre" and what is "trans" (other than saying, in so may word, "trans is the group of things that I believe").

Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-06-08 19:42:59
Nice, thanks for writing Bill. I'd still recommend checking out some of Wilber's writings. His "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality" laid out a broad picture of philosophy and was pretty satisfying. I didn't feel like the ineffable mystery was gone at all. It was more of seeing a broad structure in the history of human thought, of seeing how far we've come and maybe where we're going - especially by looking at what the great sages and teachers who have presumably been to places of higher awareness and reported what they have found.

But his "Integral Spirituality" was a bit different and I could see how one might think it a bit "closet" reductionist. My personal opinion is that Ken Wilber hasn't done very many if any psychedelics, and some of these would really throw some wrenches into his mind. In other words, he's a bit too sure of himself at times and makes some hidden assumptions about reality - a good strong dose of mushrooms would send him reeling and blast him out of certainty and into the heart of the mystery.

To the extent that psychedelics reflect a Buddhist worldview, Wilber's ideas mesh well with the ideas of living in illusion or maya and our brain limiting our awareness. However I think a lot of Buddhists and Wilber would learn a lot from psychedelics. In short, Buddhist just don't go far enough. I get the feeling from them that this really is all there is. It's true in a way, but if you smoke DMT, you'll realize that the present moment is nothing like normal reality. Hyperspace really is raging all around us! I wish more experiments would be done with Buddhist monks and DMT. I have no doubt that some have gotten there, but very, very few.

On another note, I appreciate your wariness of systems and hierarchies that might limit the uniqueness and creativity of individuals. Maybe the integral stuff is just something for the rational mind to say, ok, this spiritual stuff is really is justified and there's some solid, logical stuff behind it. But then the intuitive, creative mind steps in and says, ya, but lets check that need for analysis and order at the door and just see where the mind takes us (let's go on a crazy psychedelic adventure).

Because let's be honest, the psychedelics are just unreasonable and truly confounding to the rational mind!

I think the me to us to all of us idea is about ultimate identification with the all, and doesn't have to limit creativity at all. In a way, such a transpersonal expansion of identity allows you to be free to be yourself, and is a doorway to the greatest freedom of creative expression there is!

bill. : 2010-06-04 15:15:02
another long one, sorry. :-)

I was never attracted to materialism or the more reductive ways of looking at things that scientists often are drawn to, out of, I suppose, professional caution. I imagine a fair portion of people visiting this site have a similar attitude as we do. I think there are good perspectives coming from the rationalistic explanations that science comes up with, but a lot of the time different scientists come up with equally "plausible" explanations for mysterious/ineffable experiences. Time and again, supposed certainties get overturned, in the history of science itself. There are cultural biases, as well as personal ones, not to mention the reaction against such biases in others. And I agree that spiritual or psychedelic experiences point to things that science doesn't seem to have any hint of, and in a particularly convincing way.

What concerns me is that a movement to unify, or create the "best schema" for spirituality, and provide guidelines for how people should try to "grow" is going to reflect the values/interpretations of the system's creators. It is fine to take a stab at it, and to try and convince people, but I don't think we can expect everyone to be convinced by any particular take on all of this. I can't help but think that the suggestions and insights of these thinkers might take hold in the minds of some of their readers, representing a sort of short-cut to somewhere, crafted in the image of the writers. There might be a recognition that everyone will pass though such a system for "growth" in their own unique way, of course, but there will still be some bias in the signposts and the shape of the general approaches presented. Perhaps this sort of bias is inevitable, and has been occurring as long as people have been reading and listening to sermons, and following some shaman through techniques that s/he prefers. I'd just like to see "integral" approaches stop somewhere before actually seeking complete integration of all systems via a reductionist standardization, colored by a fetish for efficiency.

Despite the call for "integration" here, I think it is unavoidable that the drive for maximum standardization and efficiency (of consciousness and/or spirituality) is going to represent a reductionist view of spiritual approaches/perspectives. The "integral" approach relies on the reduction of individual elements--a reduction of minds to variations on universal "maps," a reduction in the styles for assessing "operating systems", and a certain reduced delineation of important spiritual values.

I recognize a certain need for some attempt at a best-possible universal perspective on morality. I support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( [link] ). Of course, it might not be perfect, and might need careful and debated amending or re-interpretation, in the face of changing times. Beyond that sort of thing, I think it is enough to suggest that people should get along, and that in order to live together, we should appreciate and respect each other. Curiosity and reasonable tolerance should be encouraged, but we need not engage in some effort to decide what's the best system for everyone to coordinate and get on the same page with, spiritually. Especially considering the fact that mixtures of rationality and the ineffable can take on the compelling flavor of analytical argument, while maintaining a built-in defense against critical rational assessment.

I consider spirituality a personal matter. Not to suggest that we live in isolation, but that we should respect the value of variety, our different perspectives, and our uniqueness. We have (blessedly) different perspectives, and I think that we should recognize the importance of this aspect of who we are. Surely, in addition to the unifying trend you mention that goes from "me" to "us" to "all of us", there has also been a liberating trend from "familial" to "tribal" to "citizen" to "individual" in our relation to responsibilities, power structures, and value systems, and it could probably be revealed by changing the wording and focus of surveys. I'd like to see the emergent properties come out of the variety inherent in our individuality, as we seek to be more creative as individuals, rather than in our conforming to some suggested structure/hierarchy in which some particular thinkers feel it should happen.

I am concerned sometimes about the never before seen, but troubling potential of universal/integral evangelicism in an age where the power of networking (an often reductivist/standardized, dehumanizing trend, despite its usefulness when tempered properly) is being leveraged in so many contexts. I wonder if some of the urge towards massive integral systemization is perhaps the result of using the shaman/guru role as a business-model, or the result of some other more innocent misconception.

Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-06-04 12:08:56
I think a major part about the integral stage is that it recognizes the necessity for all stages and all perspectives and sees very important partial truths in all of them. When we were kids the world really was magical, but eventually other ideas and thinking came into view and we went through some disillusionment and started to see the world from a new perspective. And this goes on continually and only in one direction. Always toward seeing the limited perspectives of a previous stage.

While we're in a particular stage, say rational, we think everyone who doesn't fit those values is categorically wrong. The integral stage sees partial truth, value and necessity in all stages.

It's hard to argue with the evidence that people only develop in one direction. For example, people are surveyed in 1990 and then in 2000 and their value structures or world views always move in the direction of archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, integral.

Another way to look at it is always more inclusive - egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric or me, us, all of us. Similarly, atoms to molecules to cells. Including and transcending. Emergent properties coming forth.

I do agree that it's an attempt at maximum standardization and efficiency. This helps communication among disciplines but also is efficient in terms of figuring out which developmental lines we can work on to improve our lives.

Back to the importance of the rational stage - I was a committed atheist, reductionist and even determinist. My experience could not reasonably lead me to conclude there was anything going on besides random events with no purpose. This was okay, but hardly satisfying. I silently kept an eye open to things that would challenge my assumptions of a material world. It was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon psychedelics and other rabbit hole related ideas and experience. Nothing in my rational world could make sense of just one mushroom experience. Seeing the world like that brought me back to the innocence of being a child and seeing that the mystery of was indeed real and could not be reduced away.

It's akin to "getting" a Zen koan for a moment and then coming back to the rational mind and saying, "that's ridiculous! that makes no sense!" But for a moment, it did, the paradox was real. I find it fascinating how many physicists come back to only describing the world with paradoxes, just like koans.

nname. : 2010-06-04 07:04:21
the illustration is mine. please take it in better resolution from, search for brain
bill. : 2010-06-04 01:22:35
igloo, I just saw your comment. Thanks, I may have appeared to hold rationalism over all else, but I didn't mean to. Back in a graduate logic course, I managed to follow how Godel's Theorem hinged on the careful setting up of just the sort of paradox you are talking about.

I really just wanted to express caution in regards to claims about "the mystery", spiritualism, consciousness, etc. Having taken umbrage at rationalism's shocking demotion, I wanted to suggest that the "evolution of consciousness" (as you say) thing that Wilbur suggests is sort of "valid" according to interpretation only. For some it might seem like a quite elevated way of creating 'brotherhood' and complete minds, but for others it might seem almost a sort of anal-retentive or obsessive-compulsive drive to bring maximum efficiency/standardization to spiritual conceptualization. Some of the ideas are probably excellent food for thought, and potentially effective in many situations for many people. But I am not comfortable with the claim that some certain set of values/metrics simply represent a higher spirituality, or that a more integral system is always best.

bill. : 2010-06-04 00:39:40
Jedi, I am more into rationality, diversity, and uniqueness among individuals. Not to suggest that you are in favor of turning your back on those things (I guess I don't know about that). I just don't think it is necessary for us to tear down all boundaries between individuals and spiritual systems, and I think there are plenty of historical/cultural examples for resisting such an urge. And who is to say how far anyone should go?

As an individual, I am not really attracted to the idea of moving into an integral/integrated arrangement with other consciousnesses, or receptive to urgings to join up with any particular system or framework regarding such matters. I don't think a single, worldwide established hierarchy is a good idea in much of anything, in particular regarding consciousness and spirituality.

I am not sure why Wilbur and others feel the integral step is necessary, or the inevitable next step beyond pluralism (in spiritualism, consciousness-es, etc.). We can look at some metrics (books, TV, internet) and see ideas/memes being shared more and more. That isn't *necessarily* a good thing, though, not always. And, except for criminal/governmental/corporate monitoring and theft, and Web 2.0 in general (see Jaron Lanier's writings), there is still a basic recognition that people are separate and have control over their ideas and information. If integral spirituality is about respecting and appreciating others, then I am fine with it, and that isn't anything so new. But if it is a highly systematized hierarchy, that people should agree with and accept a spot in--or else be regarded as inferior by definition--then it seems in bad taste, to say the least. I am skeptical of empirical evidence in these matters. I think it would most likely be selected trends, and interpretations, and the whole issue of "how do such things really matter" is bound to be subjective, as well as speculative.

It makes me think of the hive mind fad that is (I think...) maxing out, or at least coming back to Earth. Humans benefit from collaboration and coordination and sharing, sometimes. But as limits are removed, negative behaviors manifest, such as herd behavior, peer pressure/conformity, "wisdom of the crowd", etc. The individual can become more of a cog in a larger 'thing' which has its own ideas about proper goals, etc. Co-creation is sometimes a pretty inferior approach, and I think a grand, unifying spirituality would carry some risk, as well. Realizing oneself as a branch or path coming out of some larger cavern of oneness, etc. is not sufficient reason to make our spiritual values universal to the point where we try to make our paths (and/or "operating systems") more and more the same.

I admit that I have only read a very little Wilbur online (I had forgotten about him, but had actually read a bit maybe a couple years ago). Same with Steiner and de Chardin, just some stuff online. If what I've written above misses the mark in its particulars in regard to any (or all of them), well, it's the byproduct of me turning to other thinkers, and having other discussions, and so I apologize for any misrepresentation. But, I have to say, I think there is some evangelism going on online these past few years, and I've seen these names coming up for a while, and so I have read a bit, and gotten even more from secondary sources. Some proponents of Steiner, Aurobindo, etc. have seemed no more or less impressive/flawed than other people I know, really. And when such thinking becomes a person's very profession, well, it can get a little unattractive and dicey, imo. It seems to me that we face dangers in this rush to unify, at least as much as we stand to benefit. But resistance is not futile ;-)

I don't really mean to discourage anyone's exploration of these ideas about integral philosophy, or the noosphere, etc. However, I'd like to think that there was some respect for other ideas about where we should be headed, and how people might choose to approach and define "growth". We should be careful, in case some of these thinkers might lead us to feel superior or more evolved (spiritually? or just in consciousness, perhaps?) than others that aren't in accordance with their system. That is sort of stuff that seems like you'd have to buy into it.

Igloo. : 2010-06-03 23:14:37
bill: It is very interesting idea that rationality can be 'inferior' to other kinds of awareness as this idea stabs at the heart of western thought. An easier way to realize this is in identifying paradoxes. In trying to describe a paradox (for example: there are as many even numbers as there are integers) it would be wholly impossible to explain these through rational terms. If rationality is the ultimate form of knowledge it would imply paradoxes have no meaning but this can easily be disproved by looking at the application of imaginary numbers (which is another form of paradox). This is an extremely crude explanation that only suggests its legitimacy but it might interest you for further investigation. I've always had issues with Wilber's work as he believes in the Evolution of Consciousness myth. If you wish to learn more, I would recommend a more philosophical approach like that of Franklin Merrell-Wolff. His arguments deal very little with the 'buy into it' factor and goes through great pains not to hypostatize his work (which Wilber does not grasp).
Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-06-03 13:45:39
Bill: no buying into required at all. There is empirical cross-cultural evidence in 30 countries that everyone goes through these stages of development, which have been highly simplified into the 6 general stages. People have a center of gravity where they exhibit most of the values and worldviews of a particular stage, but is more probabilistic than categorical. I'd recommend Ken Wilber's book "Integral Spirituality".
Graham Allcott. : 2010-06-03 06:27:15
yes, guilty! I think what this can lead to is a very limited set of windows in which your attention is honed either to be productive [link] or creative. There are a couple of great books I'd recommend on this -- Stephen Pressfield's "The War of Art" is a fantastic look at the psychology of creativity and procrastination avoidance and Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" is great for people who want to be MORE creative (without necessarily becoming more schizophrenic!)
bill. : 2010-06-02 04:19:29
"stages of growth: archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, integral"

Is the "rational" stage inferior to the pluralistic and integral stages? Would there be a rational explanation for such a state of affairs, this sort of arrangement of stages? Or is it just something one must "buy into"?

Igloo. : 2010-06-01 23:44:39
I will not disagree with you that there is purpose for illusion. Technically it is necessary for there to be growth and transformation (how could one transcend Reality if there was no illusion) but I think where we depart is in the method of realizing the Self. Your description is extroverted (identifying illusion) whereas mine is introverted (identifying the Self). Perhaps you ascribe to Zen and I Samadhi.
Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-06-01 22:32:20
Igloo: your previous comment was about being confused about why I think it's necessary to envelop ourselves in illusion in order to transcend beyond it. I think I described pretty well why this is necessary and the pattern of growth (through taking on and then transcending one's illusions or perspectives) which has been cross-culturally demonstrated by various developmental psychologists.

So, do you still think illusions are unnecessary? Aren't they useful? Would it do people any good to have awareness flow right past their filter mechanisms? Aren't they there for a reason? Wouldn't it make sense that the brain puts in place the very conceptual illusions necessary for one's growth and transformation?

Igloo. : 2010-06-01 20:19:24
That's twice you went off on extreme tangents (which I understood but still heavily tangential). Perhaps you should work on establishing more D2 receptors in your thalamus :P I don't wish to make fun at your expense but if the grandeur could be toned down a bit, this might plausibly turn into a conversation. You didn't as much address my comment as you managed to orgasm on my face; I appreciate the effort, but the results are disastrous.
Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-06-01 19:46:07
I see it as stages of growth: archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, integral. They are various perspectives that we take on, which may not be ultimately true or real, but worldviews that seem to work. At each stage we include and recognize what we've learned as valuable, but perhaps partial and not the whole truth. This is the experience of disillusionment - seeing your world as merely a perspective, or seeing yourself as merely a character, something limited (or illusory). And the ultimate disillusionment? That nothing is real and all is perspective. The self is both obliterated and expands infinitely - egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric to kosmocentric - the Self as one with the Kosmos.
Igloo. : 2010-06-01 16:04:48
Jedi: I guess we have fundamentally different strategies on describing illusion. It appears that you willingly contradict the pure concept of Inner Self in favor of a more personal description as future self. What confuses me is your strategy that we 'must' envelope ourselves in illusion to transcend beyond it. I don't know about you but I don't believe in the concept of "drinking yourself sober" :P
Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-06-01 13:24:03
Igloo: I tried to get the potentiality and inner (unrecognized) self across in the idea that higher awareness is always in the present moment. So ultimately there is only the present moment, but our brains project concepts onto the world and filter it and end up creating the past and future, as if they or anything really exists outside of the now or Atman.

I do still like saying that psychedelics allow us to realize a place outside of time, to experience the unfiltered, unconceptualized moment, and that when we come back to everyday existence in time, we see this moment as an infinite compression of time, a singularity in our future. The reason it's not now, is that there are strong beliefs or perspectives that we need to take on (get mired in illusion) and then grow through or beyond (transcend). The final realization of the singularity, of creation generated in the now, comes when all filters, all limiting perspectives are realized to be illusions, and all that's left is consciousness, the I-I, which is truly the only thing that has ever been.

Igloo. : 2010-06-01 03:06:34
Jedi: Perhaps a better way of thinking of time travel and future selves are to replace those concepts with potentiality and 'inner self' (or Atman) respectively. There is no need to introduce spatiotemporal myths to explain your otherwise sound logic.
slay : 2010-05-31 21:48:10
yeah dude, that sounds much right on. ive read a fair amount about the correlation between schizophrenics and creative, psychonautic, individuals etc. i was kinda let down when they didnt mention anything about activation of serotonin receptors. also, the congruency between how schizophrenics' and users of drugs like lsd, dmt, or mushrooms' brain hemispheres function.
Jedi Mind Traveler : 2010-05-31 21:30:35
Doesn't the filtering of information before it gets to areas used for "cognition and reason" (or forming perceptions) sound a lot like Aldous Huxley's idea of the brain as a reducing valve? It seems that people with schizophrenic like brains as well as people on psychedelics, tend to get more information/awareness coming in without it being filtered by our normal perceptions. And in that sense, psychedelics are a way to time travel to the future (meet our future selves in hyperspace) where higher awareness and a more powerful/participatory consciousness awaits, yet has always been available and only ever will be, in the present moment.
guest : 2010-05-31 19:39:23
scientists have also found a correlation between people whose legs move a lot and the phenomenon of running. geneticists hope to isolate the leg moving gene which could one day lead to breakthroughs for people whose shoes don't fit well.

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