Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crazy About You

If you happen to be science, the arts, politics, philosophy...
Via Marginal Revolution, a new paper looks at the relationship between family psychopathology and intellectual specialization. It turns out that this idea is not exactly new:

A link between intellect and temperament has long been the subject of speculation. Aristotle claimed that “those who have become eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry, and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia”, while the physician Benjamin Rush noted a link between manic episodes and “talents for eloquence, poetry, music, and painting” ... Studies of the artistically inclined report linkage with familial depression ..., while among eminent and creative scientists, a lower incidence of affective disorders is found ... In the case of developmental disorders, a heightened prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has been found in the families of mathematicians, physicists, and engineers ... These threads of evidence suggest that intellectual interests might be broadly linked to neuropsychiatric disorders...[ellipses are the references to be found in linked paper]
The authors turn their neuroscientific smoke detectors on an incoming class of Princeton frosh and find diagnostic fire.

And yes, autism spectrum is linked to scientific, mathematical, and engineering interest.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum looks at the same paper, and has a hand dandy chart from it.