24 Feb

 By Rick McVicar

  Researchers at Vanderbilt University’s Park Lab, a neuroscience laboratory, have found that people with schizophrenia may have some advantages for being creative. However, some disadvantages come along with it.   

  Park Lab’s Principal Investigator Dr. Sohee Park answered questions about the lab’s research on creativity via email. The lab’s research focuses on understanding psychosis, including the behavior and thought patterns of people diagnosed with schizophrenia.   

  Park writes in an email, “We have found that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and people who may be psychosis-prone (e.g., those who score high on schizotypy measures) show extraordinary imagery abilities. Our studies show that schizophrenia spectrum condition is associated with superior performance on mental imagery tasks, such as mental rotation tasks, complex jigsaw puzzles, mental imagery generation and so on.  

   “What does this mean? The brain networks that support complex imagery overlap with the brain regions that are involved in one’s sense of the body and self.  

   “We think that if this enhanced mental imagery ability is too active, it could lead to some difficulties, such as dissociative experiences and excessive perspective taking.”   

  Dr. Park referenced a Park Lab study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2013. The study by Taylor Benson and Dr. Park is titled, “Exceptional Visuospatial Imagery in Schizophrenia: Implications for Madness and Creativity.”    

  The study found that while people with schizophrenia have exceptional abilities at processing mental imagery, their working spatial memory does not function properly.  

  The study included a group of healthy people for comparison with people who have schizophrenia. Participants were given tasks demonstrating how they interacted with images. The tasks included paper folding and rotating images as well as completing jigsaw puzzles.   

  The article includes a literature review of studies on Albert Einstein’s brain along with studies on gifted children. These studies demonstrate the importance of imagery for creativity, not only with art but also with science and math.  

  The article quotes Pablo Picasso as saying, “Everything you can imagine is real” (p. 4).

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