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12-04-2012 | Mental health | Article

Gene variant influences creativity in manic BD patients


Free abstract

MedWire News: Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) who carry the Val allele of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene (BDNF) variant rs6265 exhibit increased levels of creativity during episodes of mania compared with Met allele carriers, research suggests.

However, no such relationship was observed in BD patients experiencing an episode of depression, or in mentally healthy individuals.

Writing in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Marcio Gerhardt Soeiro-de-Souza (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil) and colleagues explain that "BDNF is the most widely distributed neurotrophic factor, and has been implicated in the pathophysiology of BD."

"In contrast to the better functioning of the BDNF polymorphism (Val66Met) Val allele, the Met allele decreases BDNF transport and has been associated with worsened performance on several cognitive domains in euthymic BD subjects and controls," they add.

As BD is often associated with increased levels of creativity, the researchers investigated whether BDNF genotype influences creativity in patients with the mood disorder.

They recruited 66 BD patients, aged 18-35 years, and 78 mentally healthy individuals of a similar age who were genotyped for the BDNF rs6265 polymorphism. Of the BD patients, 41 were experiencing an episode of mania and 25 an episode of depression at the time of the study.

All of the participants were assessed for creativity using the Barrow Welsh Art Scale (BWAS), with higher scores indicating greater levels of creativity. Their cognitive function was also assessed using a comprehensive test battery.

Overall, BD patients with mania had significantly higher mean BWAS scores than those with depression, at 27.02 versus 16.76.

In BD patients with mania, those who carried the Val allele of the BDNF variant (n=30) had significantly higher mean BWAS scores than those who carried the Met allele (n=18), at 30.03 versus 18.81.

However, the researchers found no significant difference in BWAS scores according to BDNF allele status in BD patients with depression or in controls.

They also found no significant association between BDNF allele status and cognitive function in any of the groups.

Soeiro-de-Souza and team conclude: "The better functioning Val allele of proBDNF was associated with greater creativity in BD patents. However, this association was selective for patients in manic phases whose BWAS scores were higher but was not seen among patients in the depressed phase or in normal controls."

They add: "Future studies exploring the neurobiology of creativity in BD are warranted."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen

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