Monday, November 28, 2005

Creativity, Bipolar Disease, and ADHD Kids

In these latest studies from Stanford, there are interesting insights about children diagnosed with bipolar disease, and possible associations with creativity. Take a look at the first figure below. It shows that when children diagnosed with bipolar disease were shown photographs, their brains became much more active in prefrontal areas (top).

These children also had lower(in blue) brain activations in the cerebellar vermis, an area we've previously talked about here and implicated in emotional control. The cerebellum is commonly injured in mild birth trauma, and it may be associated with 'explosive child' or emotional lability problems. Mild cerebellar signs are often also seen among children who have the behavioral diagnosis of sensory processing or sensory integration dysfunction.

The creativity finding is here: (Higher creativity = Higher dislike score)

A lot has been written about mood disorders and other(e.g. Dabrowski's) sensitivities in creative people, but the pediatric bipolar diagnostic label is relatively new.

The study should raise some warning bells for physicians on the front lines making medical decisions. Creative children can be very challenging in conventional classrooms, and yet misbehaviors are what sends kids to doctors' offices for medication.

BTW, if you're curious about the test used for creativity in the research report, it was the Barron-Welsh Art Scale. It's funny - you have a higher creativity score if you're a bigger critic (Hmm maybe that makes sense?). Here's two figures from the BWAS we found at Texas Tech.

Apparently you're more creative if you like the figure on the left, and don't like the one on the right.

Creativity, Bipolar, ADHD
Pediatric Bipolar Affective Disorder
Creativity Conundrum (look at page 9 in pdf file)

Creativity Test Texas Tech


  1. Hmmm

    Several studies with this test have shown that creative individuals show a marked preference for the complex and asymmetrical.

    Would this apply to beauty surveys too, particularly that symetrical faces are more beautiful than asymmetrical ones?

    This test has the same problem that "intelligence" tests have -- unable to define something in reality, they invent a test which defines it. It doesn't matter if the test is consistent with itself if it's not measuring actual creativity

  2. There's certainly a lot to critique about how to define or assess creativity or intelligence.

    Regarding the beauty of faces and symmetry, at least some people seem to think a little asymmetry is more beautiful: here.

    We sort of like the observation that being critical is associated with higher levels of creativity - but that certainly has additional unrelated cultural and environmental effects as well.

    Biographers and researchers have often noted associations between creativity and intrinsic motivation, aesthetics, and emotional expression, but it's much harder to quantitate these traits on simple confrontation testing or standardized assessments.

    For this article, we did want to link BWAS pictures on the blog, so that you readers could evaluate the Stanford conclusions with more background knowledge about the paradigm. You can see the dilemma with drawing conclusions from News soundbytes alone("Higher Creativity with Bipolar Disease").

    Thanks for your comments, Fernette and Brock