Family History of Psychiatric Disorders Shapes Intellectual Interests

Cleveland tower at the Graduate College, Princeton University. Artist: Magneticcarpet (CC)

Cleveland tower at the Graduate College, Princeton University. Artist: Magneticcarpet (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

A hallmark of the individual is the cultivation of personal interests, but for some people, their intellectual pursuits might actually be genetically predetermined.

Survey results published by Princeton University researchers in the journal PLoS ONE suggest that a family history of psychiatric conditions such as autism and depression could influence the subjects a person finds engaging.

Although preliminary, the findings provide a new look at the oft-studied link between psychiatric conditions and aptitude in the arts or sciences. While previous studies have explored this link by focusing on highly creative individuals or a person’s occupation, the Princeton research indicates that the influence of familial neuropsychiatric traits on personal interests is apparently independent of a person’s talent or career path, and could help form a person’s basic preferences and personality.

Princeton researchers surveyed nearly 1,100 students from the University’s Class of 2014 early in their freshman year to learn which major they would choose based on their intellectual interests. The students were then asked to indicate the incidence of mood disorders, substance abuse or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their family, including parents, siblings and grandparents.

Students interested in pursuing a major in the humanities or social sciences were twice as likely to report that a family member had a mood disorder or a problem with substance abuse. Students with an interest in science and technical majors, on the other hand, were three times more likely to report a sibling with an ASD, a range of developmental disorders that includes autism and Asperger syndrome.

Senior researcher Sam Wang, an associate professor in Princeton’s Department of Molecular Biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, said that the survey — though not exhaustive nor based on direct clinical diagnoses — presents the idea that certain heritable psychiatric conditions are more closely linked to a person’s intellectual interests than is currently supposed…

Read more here.

11 Comments on "Family History of Psychiatric Disorders Shapes Intellectual Interests"

  1. DeepCough | Feb 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |

    I dunno, this article sounds like psychiatrists are trying to medicalize “intelligence” as a “mental illness.”

    • Mr Willow | Feb 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm |

      That would work right in to a Republican worldview. Keep the false narrative going.

      As people do better, they start voting like Republicans – unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing. –Karl Rove

    • Jin The Ninja | Feb 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

      i actually planned to disagree with you UNTIL i read the entire article, and then it was clear you are very correct- dehumanising the humanities and the social sciences (and the holistic evolution of the soc-sciences
      post-victorian) by positioning mental illness closer to the things that provide us a civilizational means of discourse (that is not to say science and commerce do not provide their own myths…er meanings…)- because film. literature, art are very accessible (democratic?) and often fraught with subversive undertones and social critique. when you make those things seem irrational (even something like anthro which still attempts to be scientific in the face of culture which tends to be chaotic) it challenges the view that the analysis contained within those fields are lacking substantive quality. there is an obvious correlation between ‘artists’ and mental illness, but my thought (purely un scientific) is that the ‘artist’ as an archetype is most often highly sensitive or empathetic, and unable to conform (rationalise) the basis of a hierarchichal society. sorry for the rant, but yes i totally agree with you.

      • DeepCough | Feb 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm |

        Hey, when I’m right, I’m right, but you said it best.

        • Jin The Ninja | Feb 1, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

          appreciate that, but my flaw is my verbose responses, has been my bane since HS.

          • DeepCough | Feb 1, 2012 at 8:22 pm |

            Hmm… an e-psychiatrist, it is my opinion that you clearly have delusions of grandeur, which are concurrent with Psychopathy–but you’re in luck, I have a wide array of pharmaceutical drugs to help you with that.

          • Jin The Ninja | Feb 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm |

            lol i’ll take whatever you’re prescribing.

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