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Are creative people loony?

By jardinier ·
I found this news item most interesting.

A quirky or socially awkward approach to life might be the key to becoming a great artist, composer or inventor.

New research on individuals with schizotypal personalities-people characterized by odd behavior and language but who are not psychotic or schizophrenic-offers the first neurological evidence that these individuals are more creative than normal or fully schizophrenic people, and rely more heavily on the right sides of their brains than the general population to access their creativity.

The work by Vanderbilt psychologists Brad Folley and Sohee Park was published online Aug. 26 by the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Psychologists believe famous creative luminaries, including Vincent Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson and Isaac Newton, had schizotypal personalities.

"The idea that schizotypes have enhanced creativity has been out there for a long time but no one has investigated the behavioral manifestations and their neural correlates experimentally," Folley said. "Our paper is unique because we investigated the creative process experimentally and we also looked at the blood flow in the brain while research subjects were undergoing creative tasks."

Folley and Park conducted two experiments to compare the creative thinking processes of schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal control subjects.

In the first experiment, the researchers showed research subjects a variety of household objects and asked them to make up new functions for them. The results showed that the schizotypes were better able to creatively suggest new uses for the objects, while the schizophrenics and average subjects performed similarly to one another.

"Thought processes for individuals with schizophrenia are often very disorganized, almost to the point where they can't really be creative because they cannot get all of their thoughts coherent enough to do that," Folley said. "Schizotypes, on the other hand, are free from the severe, debilitating symptoms surrounding schizophrenia and also have an enhanced creative ability."

In the second experiment, the 3 groups again were asked to identify new uses for everyday objects as well as to perform a basic control task while the activity in their prefrontal lobes was monitored using a brain scanning techniques called near-infrared optical spectroscopy. The brain scans showed that all groups used both brain hemispheres for creative tasks, but that the activation of the right hemispheres of the schizotypes was dramatically greater than that of the schizophrenic and average subjects, suggesting a positive benefit of schizotypy.

"In the scientific community, the popular idea that creativity exists in the right side of the brain is thought to be ridiculous, because you need both hemispheres of your brain to make novel associations and to perform other creative tasks," Folley said. "We found that all three groups, schizotypes, schizophrenics and normal controls, did use both hemispheres when performing creative tasks. But the brain scans of the schizotypes showed a hugely increased activation of the right hemisphere compared to the schizophrenics and the normal controls."

The researchers believe that the results offer support for the idea that schizotypes and other psychoses-prone populations draw on the left and right sides of their brains differently than the average population, and that this bilateral use of the brain for a variety of tasks may be related to their enhanced creativity.

In support of this theory, Folley pointed to research by Swiss neuroscientist Peter Brugger who found that everyday associations, such as recognizing your car key on your keychain, and verbal abilities are controlled by the left hemisphere, and that novel associations, such as finding a new use for a object or navigating a new place, are controlled by the right hemisphere.

Brugger hypothesized that schizotypes are better at accessing both hemispheres for novel associations, enabling them to make these associations faster. His theory is supported by research showing that a disproportional number of schizotypes and schizophrenics are neither right nor left hand dominant, but instead use both hands for a variety of tasks, suggesting that they recruit both sides of their brains for a variety of tasks more so than the average person.

"The lack of specialization for certain tasks in brain hemispheres could be seen as a liability, but this increased communication between the hemispheres actually could provide added creativity," Folley said.

Folley is in the process of completing his dissertation at Vanderbilt and is currently pursuing a clinical internship and research at the University of California Los Angeles. Park is an associate professor of psychology and an investigator in the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development.

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Asperger's Disorder

by BFilmFan In reply to Are creative people loony ...

I would say that there are more than a few people in the IT field which exhibit clinical signs of Asperger's Disorder, which is a form of autism.

Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of "improper parenting".

By definition, those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all), exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. Because of their high degree of functionality and their naivet?, those with AS are often viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying. While language development seems, on the surface, normal, individuals with AS often have deficits in pragmatics and prosody. Vocabularies may be extraordinarily rich and some children sound like "little professors." However, persons with AS can be extremely literal and have difficulty using language in a social context.

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Good bit of fiction on that subject

by Fonken Monken UK In reply to Asperger's Disorder

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime.

Very good -the main antagonist has AS and its a very interesting PoV for a story. Recommended

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only if

by Jaqui In reply to Are creative people loony ...

left handed people are.

since it's well documented that the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body.
( only left handed people are in thier right minds )


yup, I'm left handed.

but this only proves the point of creativity, I have excellent problem solving skills, demonstrated in the workplace frequently.

though, after 17 tests for which hemisphere I use, they had to state I use both equally.
( 8 left hemisphere results, 9 right hemisphere results )
this is what make someone like me good in it, the creativity needed to solve problems, the analytical skills needed to be comptetent with information technology.

did you know cooking is an art form?
it is for me.

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I guess I'm a schizotype :-)

by Surflover In reply to Are creative people loony ...

I have a degree in fine art, play several instruments, and ended up in IT... before the days of integrated dev. environments (I started writing assembler using punch cards), I'd trace the code execution in my mind when debugging, and literally visualize the execution line by line to locate the error... several of the programs I supported were in excess of 200,000 lines of code... I've always said that SW engineering is "functional art"...

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Definitely true for good writers

by RexWorld In reply to Are creative people loony ...

I think there is something to this theory, at least based on my former life as an editor. The very best writers I ever worked with were definitely quirky, anti-social, or both. Something about how they're wired up makes them so much more creative with the written word.

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Before IT

by Neil Higgins In reply to Definitely true for good ...

I did a degree in political history,loony dictators,that sort of thing,and followed it up with sociology,studied Freud,got completly confused,and moved into IT.Being left handed,and slightly dysfunctional (according to my wife),I've often wondered about the left,and right sides of the brain,and how they interact.

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by jck In reply to Are creative people loony ...

yes we are...

oh no we're not!!!



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Creative people come across as looney in our current civilization

by DC Guy In reply to Are creative people loony ...

We are all under so much pressure to "think inside the box." We have so many rules to conform to in order to get along, to have successful relationships, to hang onto a job, to avoid breaking the law.

Obviously anyone who does not sense or who does not observe these constraints will be seen as looney, and those are the people who, almost by definition, are creative.

As civilization advances and division of labor becomes more extensive and more refined, there are places in society for people who are pretty far toward the end of the Bell Curve. I wonder whether these people are actually MORE socially acceptable now than they would have been in pre-industrial times.

Can you imagine how Picasso would have fared during the Dark Ages?

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by Tink! In reply to Are creative people loony ...

I don't find it unbelievable. In order to come up with new ideas a creative person has to venture into the unknown, which in all essence, is the path to insanity. We must see the world in a different way otherwise new ideas would not be found.
Thereby our interaction with the real world is strained to say the least since one foot is always in the creative beyond.
It is also interesting how creativity is linked to technology. I had no idea I was good at tech stuff until I started working in the officeplace. But growing up I was considered highly creative and artistic. I never thought I'd be doing techie stuff cuz I figured that was mathematical type work, and I hated math (but I made it all the way to Calculus before giving up) Then when I started working, I found I had a knack for fixing machines, computers, phones and other techie stuff. And I enjoyed it! So in reality tech work is an artform, involving creativity to build solutions and solve problems on a constant basis. As well as coming up with new ways to be efficient and better.
So Tech gurus and Artists unite! We're all crazy.

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i guess that would explain being left handed :)

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