Is oxytocin in the brain the cause of genius?
Have you ever solved a stubborn problem with a sudden, blazing flash of useful insight?
Ever wonder why such solutions present themselves at one time and not another? And why some of us are more disposed to have a 'Eureka Moment' than others.
According to new research, the answer could lie in the oxytocin. Oxytocin is a human hormone which has been used to help induce birth for more than a century, and more recently to combat the effects of autism in children.
The latest studies indicate that oxytocin could increase our capacity to make imaginative leaps and to think creatively. And, at the same time possible diminishing our ability for rational analysis — a potential explanation for the oft-quoted 'line between madness and genius'.
Spread over six case studies across universities in Singapore, Israel and Amsterdam, the research shows evidence of a connection between levels of oxytocin and instances of creative cognition in test subjects.
In one of the studies, the subjects were categorized according to the Temperament and Character Index. This identifies our four tendencies: 'novelty seeking', 'harm avoidance', 'reward dependence', and 'persistence'.
Subjects were asked to rate statements such as 'I get tense and worried in unfamiliar situations' and 'I do things spontaneously'.
Analysis found a correlation between levels of oxytocin and a tendency towards novelty-seeking or exploratory behavior.
In the next study, at the University of Haifa, the participants were asked to invent imaginative alternative uses for a given object, such as a button. Once again, researchers observed a link between the subjects' oxytocin levels and the degree of originality and invention shown in their answers.
Finally, 191 male subjects participated in six tests at the University of Amsterdam, taken under the influence of an administered dose of oxytocin nasal spray. Some tests gauged analytical reasoning (such as identifying the common word between three given words). Others tested for imaginative capacity and holistic processing (such as inventing new names for pasta ending with an 'i').
Here as well, oxytocin seemed to reduce capacity for rational analysis while boosting the individual's ability to generate innovative and novel creative connections.
Your Oxytocin Gene and Creativity, Do You Have it?
The next experiment these researchers performed was to see if genetic variation associated with oxytocin had an effect on creativity.
The way that oxytocin works is that it binds to a receptor. Think of this like as a baseball(oxytocin) going into the a baseball mitt (receptor). After this interaction occurs a physiological response ensues.
And so the scientists found a genenic variation present in the receptor (the baseball mitt).
They tested subjects on their ability to find novel uses for a particular object. They found that GG/GT-carriers produced more ideas, had more original ideas, and displayed greater flexibility.
So, does this mean that those of with the GG/GT should quit their 9 to 5 jobs, and pursue their creative passion? And that those carrying the TT variant will never have any success with their creative ideas? Certainly not. Creativity is a complex trait affected by many factors, biological and environmental.
These findings give us a possible insight into what makes us who we are and may be one of the many reasons that some people are capable of having more original and creative ideas than others.
So what does this mean for you?
If you are a 23andMe or Ancestry.com customer, you can use your raw DNA data to discover if your DNA carries the variant of the oxytocin receptor associated with creativity.
Use GENEius Intellectual Potential report to check which variant of the oxytocin receptor is in YOUR DNA and how that effects your creativity! Click HERE and get on your way to discovering your inner GENEius!