Do You Have to Be Crazy to Be a Genius?

Monday, July 21, 2014

(Alena Hovorkova/Shutterstock)

Neuroscientist and literary scholar Nancy C. Andreasen tries to answer the question: If high IQ does not indicate creative genius, then where does the trait come from, and why is it so often accompanied by mental illness? Andreasen has studied the neuroscience of mental illness and has worked with many gifted subjects, including Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, and John Cheever, from the Iowa Writers' Workshop to investigate the science of genius. She’s currently working with artists and scientists including George Lucas, the mathematician William Thurston, the novelist Jane Smiley, and six Nobel laureates. Her article “Secrets of the Creative Brain” is the cover story of the July/August issue of The Atlantic


Nancy Andreasen

Comments [7]

Paul S.

What I find disconcerting is the choice of subjects. George Lucas is not creative. There are many creative people in the arts, but Lucas is not one of them.

Jul. 24 2014 06:41 PM
Tim Casey from United States

I second the objections to using the word "crazy" when referring to studies of artists or of anyone with extraordinary abilities. Ditto for using "crazy" when talking about depression and other mental difficulties. As an artist and writer I've heard such language for a lifetime, and it gets really - depressing.

Jul. 22 2014 09:53 AM from NYC

Depression and other negative mental states, and all mental AND physical illnesses are CAUSED by demonic spirits whose 'assignments' are the names of the disease. Jesus rebuked them & gave his followers authority do it. It works. I Have rebuked Depress-, asthma-, canc-. Jesus healed people as a testimony that he was the savior and God heals today for the same purpose. I don't write entire spirits since that can invoke them. THey transmit thru verbal and physical contact, like germs. ALSO all drugs which affect the mind are openings for demonic spirits. ALcohol is an opening for depress. So many writers who drink or hang out near other drinkers, pick up that spirit from that. Liquor stores often SAY WINE LIQUOR AND SPIRITS - it is a warning that alcohol is an opening for demonic spirits. Caffeine is an opening for spirits of addiction,mania, confusion. It is NOT good for one's creative muse. One is better off with NO drugs, and getting inspired by the spirit of God, which is PEACEFUL. Caffeine spirits produce a lot of spam. Nicotine is a BIG OPENING for negative thoughts. LSD, Pot, etc and ALL Psych drugs ALSO cause mental illness.

see articles, free books, music at
see ARTICLES BY CATEGORY page articles in most recent order

ch 12 of my free book addresses creative people who are misjudged as crazy:

Manual for Transformational Healing-God's Answer to Psychiatry

in chapters on my blog


On judging someone to be mentally ill - misjudging of intelligent & intuitive & creative & religious people (ch 12)

musicians are called to be prophets, intercessors & healers

Nobody has Schizophrenia - they have Christianity

Jul. 22 2014 09:11 AM from NYC

I had read the article. Her whole premise is wrong - it has to do with the definition of Mental illness. Schizophrenia is NOT a Mental disorder at all. It is a nonsense label used by ATHEIST psychiatry which falsely calls Christians & anyone with spiritual beliefs and experiences schizophrenic. THey think that "hearing voices" is an auditory hallucination, an alleged 'symptom' of schizophrenia. BUT it is NORMAL CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY to hear voices. EVERYONE does, as thoughts in our heads. THey come from the spiritual realm. The word INSPIRATION means A SPIRIT GOES INTO IT. THe bible says thoughts come from God or the demonic, James ch 3 "wisdom from above and wisdom from below". an nyc NEUROSCIENTIST, oLIVER SAKS, wrote in his book Hallucinations that hearing music in one's head is an auditory hallucination. How does he think composers hear and write music? I have written music since age 3, I often heard symphonies in my head as a kid. It either came from Heaven or the radio somewhere due to metal fillings, or both. I played piano since 4 and had the thought as a kid "I am put on earth to do music & it is holy".

Jul. 22 2014 09:08 AM
Elise from nyc

I just wanted to say for the record that as a mental health advocate, and in general, to describe one who has a mental illness as "crazy" as your title suggests is deeply offensive to me. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, has pulled ads from television because of this. I understand that you did not mean any offense by it, because most people do not know how hurtful it is to be referred to as being crazy. "Crazy is up there with the other offensive words that describe other groups of people, such as race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. So please in the future when dealing with mental health issues do not use the word "crazy" to refer to someone who has a mental illness, I know it makes for a good headline, but please take note. Thank you.

Jul. 21 2014 07:35 PM
Steven Rudin from Massapequa Park

I did not hear the entire broadcast,but one part of it that stood out to me was the relationship of IQ to genius. Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant physicists of his time, is reported to have had an IQ score of 125, which is respectable but wouldn't have gotten him the gifted program called SP, if it existed, when he went to the NYC public schools. My uncle was his high school physics teacher, and said that even as a student Feynman could understand more physics in a weekend than my uncle himself could in an entire summer of study. Feynman won the Nobel Prize in 1965.

Jul. 21 2014 02:37 PM

The curse of scientific endeavors… All of this information is born out of a desire, and will only further lead to more of that desire, to control human life, in one way or another. Because we are technologically oriented beings, we keep "figuring things out", and whether we realize how wrong we are or not - at any given point in the game - depends on factors beyond our control, ironically. But we will nonetheless insist that we know something about something, and will apply that knowledge, directly or indirectly to "help" humanity. This is the horror we are still living out now, in our unenlightened state, and the horror of the future we are continually crossing and entering…

Jul. 21 2014 02:05 PM

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