July 07, 2007

Predisposition to Schizophrenia May Have Adaptive Benefit to Society

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

Some researchers have suggested that the genes that are linked to increased risk of schizophrenia (and the related bipolar disorder) may also be linked to increased creativity (see links below for more information on this topic).

John Nash, Ph.D. is a shining example of the creativity that can come from families that suffer from schizophrenia, but Dr. Nash also has demonstrated a "recovery", which is an idea focusing on "a patient's attributes and aptitudes rather than on pathology". Although he has never been "cured" of schizophrenia, he is considered to be proof that living a fruitful and productive life is still a possibility.

Nash is the world-renowned Nobel Laureate whose struggle with schizophrenia was the subject of the Oscar-winning film "A Beautiful Mind." He won the Nobel prize for his insight into "game theory" which he has now applied to gain even more insight into why severe mental illness exists in nature. His conclusion is that it may be the result of an adaptive need of the human species as shown by its not infrequent association with creativity and genius.

Nash says,

"A possible, but perhaps questionable, inference is that humans are notably subject to mental illness because there was a need for diversity in the patterns of human mental functions."

This suggestion of a genetic link between creativity and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder has also been voiced by some well-known psychiatric researchers such as Nancy Andreasen, M.D., and Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.. They, and others, have suggested that the reason that schizophrenia remains in the population is because these genes associated with schizophrenia provide some benefit to people (as long as the stresses and environmental impacts are not too great; because at a high level they trigger schizophrenia).

Given the frequency of schizophrenia in the families of innovative thinkers (e.g Einstein's son Eduard, James Watson (Discoverer of DNA) also has a son who suffers from schizophrenia, and of course John Nash) this is idea that has the ring of truth to it.

Read the article: Nash Suggests Schizophrenia May Serve Adaptive Function

Related Reading:

Creativity linked to Schizotypy

Artists: more sex but shared schizophrenia traits

John Nash Interview

Math Ability and Schizophrenia

Poets and Artists Have as Many "Unusual Experiences" as People with Schizophrenia

New Movie - "The Peter Green Story", Rock Musician who Developed Schizophrenia

New Film on Schizophrenia - "Canvas"


Interesting concept perhaps now when someone asks about my illness I can say that I have" human genetic adaptive modification in search of genius syndrome"

Posted by: Salty davis at July 8, 2007 06:46 AM

The nature versus nurture discussion which has been going for decades now which tells how the character is formed which is the basis for intellectual achivement says that 80 percent in a matured person is in the genes and the rest is learned along the way. This is not a surprise because we all see children from successful parents succeed in life. There are always exceptions of course. But the general trend is there. The need for diversity (how Harvard) in mental functions for evolution is indeed questionable when it comes to a dibilitating illness as schizophrenia. Especially when the occurrence
of it could not be traced back in the family on both sides as it was in my case. However I do have a sister who is also sz.

Posted by: joyride at July 8, 2007 03:33 PM

So what I was trying to say is that you have smart sz's and not so smart sz's. There is no discrimination in intelligence. I do not think sz will contribute to achievements made by sz's, it is more of a handicap.

Posted by: joyride at July 8, 2007 03:52 PM

The scientist David Horrobin came to much the same conclusion as Nash in his book "The madness of Adam and Eve"

Posted by: Josh at July 9, 2007 03:40 AM

Nevertheless with the deepest respect for what John Nash has
accomplished in his life.

Posted by: joyride at July 11, 2007 01:17 PM

This is a very unscientific and misleading article.

Apadtation and evolution are often misunderstood by the general public, I'm no expert but I'm not impressed. I also read one of Jamison's books, again wasn't too impressed.

You have to make a very poignant argument to explain how an illness which is Self-Defeating in nature, contributes to the species.

There have been countless geniuses in history, in art and science who did not have a mental illess.

And as someone who has spent 15 years writing music, stories etc., though I love my artistic side, I like to take a more simple approach that it is more a matter of interest and appling yourself to something and then getting good at it, rather than a genetic predisposition.

I mean, sure, humans have evolved to think outside the box.

But if your saying that thanks to people like me (who live their entire lives hearing constant voices and falling in and out of deusional relapse), mankind is evolving to think more creatively....I'll ask, what book are you selling?

Posted by: Richard at July 11, 2007 04:37 PM

Nice comment Richard! The only thing that i can add about mental illnesses is that they have been around probably since the dawn of humankind. I firmly believe that the first person to write etc.... Was very depressed, and was attempting to recreate and perserve loved and lost family memebers.

Posted by: Max at July 14, 2007 05:29 AM

Damn typing errors! Ah well I ain't perfect nor do i want to be...

Posted by: Max at July 14, 2007 09:18 AM

does smoking still benefit the symtoms of schizophrenia when you already have the illness?

Posted by: Clayton Wakeham at August 1, 2007 06:08 PM

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