A study conducted by researchers from Karolinska Institute provided further evidence explaining the relationship between dopamine level in the brain and mental health. The researchers were able to find that the dopamine system in schizophrenics are relatively similar to that of highly creative individuals. Dopamine has been long seen as a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining and improving the learning process.
A related study at the UT Southwest Medical Center reveals how dopamine can make changes in the brain's processing of important information and improve the flexibility of brain cells. But the imbalance of dopamine in the brain can either make someone very creative or lead to mental conditions like schizophrenia. The KI study shows that it can be both.
Studies show that highly creative skills is common in people with mental conditions. People who are highly creative are also found to be at high risk of developing bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The psychological traits of schizophrenics like the ability to make bizarre associations are also observed in highly creative but mentally healthy people. Co-author of the study Fredrik Ullen from the Department of Women's and Children's Health of the Karolinska Institute said that after studying the dopamine D2 receptors in the brain, they were able to find that schizophrenics and highly creative individuals have similar dopamine systems. The study was published in PLoS ONE journal.
Dopamine receptor genes are linked to a person's ability to make divergent thoughts. Dr Ullen's team asked a group of study participants to take a test that measures their skill in providing different solutions to a single problem and examined their D2 receptor density. They found that the participants with the highest tests scores had the lowest levels of the dopamine receptor; schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 receptor density. The thalamus acts as the brain's relay center that filters information before reaching the cortex. Dr Ullen said the low levels of D2 receptors in this part of the brain may mean a lower degree of filtering and a greater flow of information.