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The notion of a “tortured genius” or “mad scientist” may be more than a romantic aberration. Research shows that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia correlate with high creativity and intelligence, raising tantalizing questions: What role does environment play in the path to mental illness? Are so-called mental defects being positively selected for in the gene pool? Where’s the line between gift and deficit? As studies mount supporting the storied link between special aptitudes and mental illnesses, science is reexamining the shifting spectrum between brilliance and madness.
This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.
One of the strongest, most expressive voices to have come out of Ireland belongs to Dublin native Susan McKeown. Her 2010 album Singing in the Dark explores creativity and madness with lyrics from poets such as Anne Sexton and Theodore Roethke, who were writing through the lens of depression, mania, and addiction.Read More
Elyn Saks’ work focuses on the legal and ethical issues surrounding mental illness—something she has decades of personal experience with. When Saks was diagnosed with schizophrenia more than thirty years ago, her doctors didn’t expect she would be able to live independently, let alone work.Read More
Internationally renowned neurobiologist James Fallon has made major scientific breakthroughs in the basic and clinical brain sciences. He was the first to describe a characterized growth factor in the central nervous system and the first to show how to stimulate the mass production and mobilization of adult stem cells in the adult brain.Read More