Genius, Madness Linked to Gene

Study links creativity to gene associated with mental illness
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2009 3:45 AM CDT
Troubled genius Vincent Van Gogh in a self-portrait.   (AP Photo/The Morgan Library & Museum)
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(Newser) – The reason why many creative people like Vincent Van Gogh show self-destructive tendencies is in the genes, researchers have discovered. Scientists in a new study found that volunteers identified as the most creative also had the highest levels of a gene variant associated with psychosis and depression, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Volunteers with the highest levels of the gene—neuregulin 1—"were more likely to have higher scores on the creativity assessment and also greater lifetime creative achievements than volunteers with a different form of the gene," said the lead researcher. The study is the first to show that a gene associated with insanity can also have some beneficial qualities, according to the scientists.