Autism, Creativity and Other Neurodiverse Brains

creativity autism

creativity autism

The autism community is known as a driver of the neurodiversity movement. Neurodiversity is a way of accepting and fostering diverse neurological differences that are as normal as having either blue or brown eyes.

It is what is behind those eyes that is so revealing.

Bipolar, schizophrenia, the aging brain, and now, autism are known for having enhanced creativity.  It’s in our genes and possibly in how our minds adapt to our changing lives and the world around us.

This article quoted, “The Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger famously wrote two millennia ago that “there is no great genius without some touch of madness” – now scientists have shown that he may have been right.”  Do note that autism isn’t a mental illness; it’s a developmental disorder, which I will get to in a bit.

Wikipedia: A study by psychologist J. Philippe Rushton found creativity to correlate with intelligence and psychoticism. Another study found creativity to be greater in schizotypal than in either normal or schizophrenic individuals. While divergent thinking was associated with bilateral activation of the prefrontal cortex, schizotypal individuals were found to have much greater activation of their rightprefrontal cortex. This study hypothesizes that such individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres, allowing them to make novel associations at a faster rate.

Another study involving more than one million people, conducted by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute, reported a number of correlations between creative occupations and mental illnesses. Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, and were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves. Dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.

However, as a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people, although they were more likely to have a close relative with a disorder, including anorexia and, to some extent, autism, the Journal of Psychiatric Research reports.

The Aging Creative Brain

As we age, we experience a cognitive decline, but the older brain accommodates by becoming more creative.   In this article, they wrote, “The aging brain resembles the creative brain in several ways. For instance, the aging brain is more distractible and somewhat more disinhibited than the younger brain (so is the creative brain).”

“Distractible” meaning noticing all kinds of things that are outside the scope of the task or thought at hand.  All those other variables are taken into the activity, making it into a creative activity or thought.

To quote the same article, “Aging brains score better on tests of crystallized IQ (and creative brains use crystallized knowledge to make novel and original associations). These changes in the aging brain may make it ideally suited to accomplish work in a number of creative domains.”

In short, do read, “When I am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple,” where one of the poets writes, “…to make up for the sobriety of my youth.”

We autistics are now a part of a storied group of creatives

Some of us like to claim Einstein as a part of our autistic tribe, but so do the bipolars and schizophrenics.  Maybe he had two or three disorders?  I posit that there are no lines drawn in concrete among older people, autism, bipolar, and schizophrenia.  We have more in common than the sharply defined diagnoses would describe.  After all, sharp distinctions are necessary as a diagnostic tool, but they are not a tool that defines a person.

We all have behaviors that are attributed to our particular disorder, but what if it’s just that we’re a creative type?

This article is interesting:  People with autism ‘have greater quality of creative ideas.

Another good one:  Study Finds Link Between Autism And Creative Thinking

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

-Steve Jobs

About Eileen Parker 100 Articles
Support a starving writer, buy my current book, The Weighted Blanket Guide, on Amazon. I'm a writer working on my fourth book. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and cats. Between them, they have four children.