The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 19 No. 3 • April 2016


CREATIVITY
and
DOPAMINERGIC DRIVE

… no great genius was without a mixture of insanity.

—Aristotle

The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.

—Dee Hock

Creativity is not the same as intelligence. You can have one without having much of the other. That suggests that the basic mechanisms that result in creativity as compared to intelligence are different, at least in some respects. One of the differences is that creative people tend to generate more ideas, but at the same time many of those ideas may not be of high quality. It is intelligence that permits you to distinguish which ideas are the good ones. As Linus Pauling suggested, if you want to have good ideas, you need to have a lot of ideas and throw out the bad ones.

The basis for creativity is the recognition of patterns. A creative individual is able to see novel associations between things. Associational thinking has been identified in relation to music, writing, and other forms of obsessional mental effort. Hypergraphia (an urge to write incessantly, a trait probably shared by most writers) is an example of associational thinking, of creativity. Interestingly, hypergraphia was first characterized in temporal lobe epileptics, suggesting that damage to the temporal lobe is a contributing factor to hypergraphia, at least in those with epilepsy. White matter in the brain is the material that comprises the connecting tracts that allows different areas of the brain to communicate with each other. There is immense damage to white matter in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as in other neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, epilepsy) and as part of aging in the brain.

Dopaminergic activity in the temporal lobes is an important player in creative drive. Mesolimbic dopamine influences novelty seeking and creative drive. Novelty seeking is a particular character trait exhibited by some people more than by others; it has recently been found to be linked to the DRD2 dopamine receptor. (Blum, 2011)

The DRD2 gene as well as the TPH gene—which induces the expression of tryptophan hydroxylase, the enzyme that converts tryptophan to 5-hydroxytryptophan on the pathway to serotonin— are both associated with creativity. (Reuter, 2006) The DRD2 gene is associated with verbal creativity, whereas the TPH gene is associated with numerical and figural creativity. (It is interesting to note that women have on average greater verbal abilities than men, while men typically have much greater numerical (mathematical) abilities than women. SAT scores reflect this, with most of those scoring high on the math SAT (over 700) being men. Average SAT scores don’t tell you about the distribution, where some scores fall far lower than average and others score much higher. Men have a much wider distribution, with a greater share of both the highest scores and the lowest.

As noted in Reuter, 2006, “[g]eneral cognitive ability (intelligence, often indexed by IQ scores) is one of the most highly heritable behavioral phenotypes. It has slowly come to be the general view among scientists that IQ does provide a rough measure of intelligence.” Creativity is not the same as intelligence, however, and heredity may, on the basis of twin studies, contribute perhaps 20% of the genetic contribution. This is controversial due to difficulties in measuring creativity. In the case of numerical creativity, there was a modest correlation with intelligence.

References

  • Reuter et al. Identification of first candidate genes for creativity: a pilot study. Brain Res. 1069:190-7 (2006).
  • Blum et al. Generational association studies of dopaminergic genes in reward deficiency syndrome (RDS) subjects selecting appropriate phenotypes for reward dependence behaviors. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 8:4425-59 (2011).

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