A new paper has revealed that neurotic people are creative geniuses. This is because they tend to over-think things and worry about details that most people forget, overlook or deliberately ignore.
Neuroticism is a mental condition that makes people inclined towards negative thoughts and psychological states. It’s one of the five (5) main personality traits responsible for a person’s behavior and though patterns, and a lifelong condition that has been linked to many geniuses in the past, from Woody Allen to Isaac Newton.
Neurotic people are also more vulnerable to developing various mental illnesses such as depression or a heightened state of anxiety.
A team of neuroscientists led by Adam M. Perkins, psychologist from King’s College, explained that the brain of a neurotic person is over-analyzing things even in relaxed circumstances that are completely free of any potential for conflict and / or danger. They will still manage to imagine and manufacture threats, dangers and insults that, to their thinking, may arise at any moment.
But it is precisely this involuntary imagining of potential dangers and distorted view of the world that allows the brains of neurotic people to come up with unique, unusual and highly creative ideas, concepts, theories and perceptions. Part of their creative process is involuntary as their brains automatically respond to an emotion that they’re feeling.
Perkins said that he and his team have yet to prove their theory in the lab, but they strongly believe that their research points at an existing link between creativity and neurosis.
The new study is not hard to believe as previously conducted studies and surveys have also found that many neurotic people work in creative fields, and generally avoid fields such as military aviation, where employees are required to have intense, sustained attention. Part of this may be because neurotic people are usually more irritable, moody and anxious than most people.
Scans have shown that the brains of neurotic people process and regulate emotions differently than those of average people who are not in constant state of negativity. These differences were particularly visible when the researchers looked at several brain regions which together form a network known as “the default mode network”.
This network activates when we daydream, think of our past and reflect on our social relationships. It helps us form a sense of self and create social templates that allow us to efficiently interact with others. However, the activity of the default mode network can become intrusive and difficult to turn off in people with depression.
Previous studies have also shown that the default mode network of both neurotic people and creative people has similar patterns of activity when these individuals have to solve a specific cognitive task. It’s difficult for both groups to shut down daydreaming, so thought keep popping up in their heads.
One working theory is that neurotic people and creative people may simply be reimagining information available in their immediate surroundings, another is that they’re imagining a non-existent threat and figuring out how to bring it into their immediate surroundings.
The paper was published earlier this week, on Thursday (August 27, 2015), in the journal Trends in Cognitive Science.
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