Madness Redefined: Creativity, Intelligence and the Dark Side of the Mind

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 Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

The World Science Festival gathers great minds in science and the arts to produce live and digital content that allows a broad general audience to engage with scientific discoveries. Our mission is to cultivate a general public informed by science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.

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Original Program Date: May 31, 2012
MODERATOR: Cynthia McFadden
PARTICIPANTS: James Fallon, Kay Redfield Jamison, Susan McKeown, Elyn Saks

Disordered Minds: Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf,
John Keats, Emily Dickinson 00:00

Cynthia McFadden’s Introduction 4:55

Participant Introductions 6:15

Is there a scientific base to the madness and creativity link? 8:03

Spatial contrast and artistic frequencies. 12:08

Elyn Saks and her history of schizophrenia. 17:02

What has brain imaging shown us on the connection of madness and creativity. 24:54

Philosophers think what schizophrenics live. 32:27

James Fallon on the mental state of the criminal mind. 40:08

A CEO is 4 times more likely to be a sociopath. 48:32

Has the link to creativity changed the stereotypes of schizophrenia? 57:08

Most serial killers have had a past experiences that determine the present. 1:04:40

Can you recognize when your illness is in control and not you? 1:12:08

The medical model of understanding these illness. 1:18:49

“Singing in the Dark” a performance by Susan McKeown. 1:20:13
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