8) Intellect vs. Cognition (Madness vs. Genius)

Intellect vs. Cognition
Madness vs. Genius

Since my son came to live with me I've heard him say on numerous occasions 'I'm not stupid...'
I think that my son's brain is over stimulated in some areas and the connecting areas are not able to handle the input. Is what is happening in my son's brain a determining factor of his intellect? Personally I don't think so. For me it just raises questions on what we as a society consider to be intelligence. Does what is happening in his brain affect his ability to gain knowledge? Again I don't think so and I question what society considers to be knowledge. As with anything that I write about I urge you to do your own research as I only include the information that I find interesting or pertaining to what I am writing.

I came across an article called "The Link between Madness and Creativity". In this article they are discussing the link between madness and creativity. It's references Vincent Van Gogh who cut off the lower lobe of his left ear as a present for someone he loved and Ernest Hemingway who, plagued by depression, committed suicide. It discusses low latent inhibition (LI) a condition shared by creative people and those with hallucinatory mental illnesses. The article states: "Each of us is constantly assaulted with sensory information; that raw data which Snyder believes autistic savants have trouble converting into mindsets. Humans and other primates have evolved enough to weed through this information and consider only what we need to survive, to perform a necessary task or to consider data we haven't already catalogued. The other information is unconsciously discarded, filtered through the process of latent inhibition. It's why we tend not to latch onto the constant buzzing of fluorescent lights overhead or compile snippets of conversations in crowded restaurants into a senseless whole.
A low level of latent inhibition has been shown in schizophrenics [source: Weickert, et al]. Because they can't distinguish between external and internal stimuli (for example, voices), schizophrenics attach meaning to the sensory input people with normal latent inhibition unconsciously ignore [source: Carson]." "What creative people do with the additional stimuli appears to be the separation between creativity and insanity. In a 2004 study, Carson found that test subjects with low latent inhibition coupled with a relatively high IQ (120 to 130) also had creative abilities. Carson postulated that people with high intellects aren't assaulted by the additional information allowed into their consciousnesses through low LI like schizophrenics are. Instead, they make creative use of it: "Intelligence allows you to manipulate the additional stimuli in novel ways without being overwhelmed by them" [source: Carson]." This theory however does not stand up considering "Studies have found a decline in intellect among some schizophrenics; but others show no decline -- remaining either at the same high or low intelligence quotient they possessed prior to developing the mental disorder (which appears on average at age 16 for males and 20 for females) [source: Weickert, et al, Carson]." I guess it depends on what you would consider to be additional information. For knowledge sack wouldn't all information be important? Perhaps the only difference between a creative person and a schizophrenic is that one hasn't learned how to deal with the additional information, yet.

The following quotes from another article really hit home for me. DeYoung and his colleagues close an article with this: "Genius requires penetrating insight into reality, whereas madness is confusion about reality. Nonetheless, both madness and genius appear likely to be positively related to the broad trait of Openness/Intellect. Without the tendency to perceive patterns that is fundamental to Openness, Intellect may by [be] unlikely to lead to the creativity required for genius. Perhaps, then, genius is most likely to emerge given the combination of high Intellect and high Openness, and one must risk madness to achieve genius."

In "The Essential Psychopathology of Creativity", Andrea Kuszewski notes: "Were it not for those “disordered” genes, you wouldn’t have extremely creative, successful people.  Being in the absolute middle of every trait spectrum, not too extreme in any one direction, makes you balanced, but rather boring.  The tails of the spectrum, or the fringe, is where all the exciting stuff happens.  Some of the exciting stuff goes uncontrolled and ends up being a psychological disorder, but some of those people with the traits that define Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, ADHD, and other psychological conditions, have the fortunate gift of high cognitive control paired with those traits, and end up being the creative geniuses that we admire, aspire to be like, and desperately need in this world."

Salvador Dali: "There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad."

This article states: "How can creative geniuses simultaneously be mad and brilliant? Only recently, however, have scientists been able to find out both what connects madness and brilliance, and what separates them. It turns out the key to this riddle is a deeper understanding of the most psychologically important dimension of human personality: Openness/Intellect." This article discusses how intellect and openness can be separated both behaviorally and neurologically and how cognition is different in each of them.

It also discusses schizotypy, a watered-down version of schizophrenia that consists of a constellation of personality traits that are evident in some degree in everyone. It has positive and negative traits the same as schizophrenia. "Apophenia is a component of positive schizotypy, and involves a general human propensity (tendency) to see meaningful patterns when they don't really exist. Apophenia is a natural part of human nature. Some examples include wearing good luck charms, seeing Jesus in toast, or mistaking random sounds for someone calling your name. " They did two studies on people without schizophrenia-spectrum disorders to look at normal human variation in both intelligence and apophenia. They came up with what they call The Paradoxical Simplex and it lists intelligence and competence on one end with paranormal beliefs and magical ideation on the other end. Intelligence and apophenia are on opposite ends of the simplex. A system that probably has an effect on this is the dopaminergic system. Dopamine effects behavior and cognition. It seems that intellect and openness do not go hand in hand and only a small part of the population have extremely high levels of both. Those with higher IQ's and higher dopamine levels.

Another articles talks about a gene called DARPP-32 that appears to make the brain's most sophisticated thinking region more efficient. It improves the way information is exchanged between the striatum, a brain region that processes reward, and the prefrontal cortex, the brain's executive hub that manages thoughts and actions. When this circuit works efficiently, the normal outcome is more flexible thinking and better memory. But the circuit has been linked to brain functions that go wrong in patients with schizophrenia. "Our results raise the question of whether a gene variant favoured by evolution, that would normally confer advantage, may translate into a disadvantage if the prefrontal cortex is impaired, as in schizophrenia," Dr Weinberger said. "Normally, enhanced cortex connectivity with the striatum would provide increased flexibility, working memory capacity and executive control. But if other genes and environmental events conspire to render the cortex incapable of handling such information, it could backfire - resulting in the neural equivalent of a superhighway to a dead end."

Let's delve deeper into IQ scores. Did you know that there are different kinds of IQ tests? Some tests are visual, some are verbal, some tests only use abstract-reasoning problems, and some tests concentrate on arithmetic, spatial imagery, reading, vocabulary, memory or general knowledge. A little history. In 1941 Raymond Cattell proposed two type of cognitive abilities as a revision of Spearman's concept of general intelligence. He hypothesized two forms of intelligence. Fluid intelligence (Gf) as the ability to solve novel problems by using reasoning and declines with age. Crystallized intelligence (Gc) as a knowledge-based ability dependent on education and experience that is resistant to decline. This theory was revived in 1966 by John L. Horn who argued Gf and Gc was only two of ten broad abilities. There are 10 broad abilities (*listed at the end) that are in turn subdivided into 70 narrow abilities. This theory became the Gf-Gc Theory. In 1993 John B. Carroll proposed the Three Stratum Theory which has three levels. The bottom consists of narrow abilities that are highly specialized like spelling, the second consists of the eight broad abilities with Spearman's concept of general intelligence, for the most part, a representation of the third stratum. In 1999 a merging of the Gf-Gc theory of Cattell and Horn with Carroll's Three-Stratum theory has led to the Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory and has influenced many of the current broad IQ tests. In 1997 Alexander Luria's earlier work on neuropsychological processes led to the PASS theory that argued that only looking at one general factor was inadequate for researchers and clinicians who worked with learning disabilities, attention disorders, mental retardation, and interventions for such disabilities. The PASS model covers four kinds of processes (planning process, attention/arousal process, simultaneous processing, and successive processing).  It has influenced some recent IQ tests, and been seen as a complement to the Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory. Although modern comprehensive IQ tests still give an overall score, they now also give scores for many of these more restricted abilities, identifying particular strengths and weaknesses of an individual. Still modern tests do not necessarily measure all of the broad abilities. There are such critics as Keith Stanovich who do not dispute the stability of IQ test score however they do argue that to base a concept of intelligence on IQ test scores alone is to ignore many important aspects of mental ability. They fail to account for certain areas which are also associated with intelligence such as creativity or emotional intelligence.

I don't think my son's current intellect or IQ is a part of the equation but rather his cognitive thinking and his ability to rationalize the information that his brain is processing. Information that most of us disregard as being unimportant. What if his brain is an indication of where evolution is taking us? Could  a prefrontal cortex currently unable to handle the amount of input be a negative consequence of our current technological age and something nature is trying to fix? Am I reaching... Maybe but we do live in a time where machines and gadgets do more and more of our thinking for us. Most of us have heard the term New Age. How about The New Age Movement? A spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. The New Age aims to create "a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas".  It includes elements of older spiritual and religious traditions combined with science. I won't go any further into the spiritual aspect as I'm hoping to write about this later on.

 I'm currently having to fill the role of teacher in my son's life and this means that I am having to relearn what I learned in high school so that I can teach it to him. My son is capable of learning these things as we are currently proving. Almost daily I can see his cognition improving to the point where I'm having to push myself to make his homework a little more challenging than I think it should be because he breezes through it. I would even hazard a guess that anything that I'm currently teaching him will not be as easily forgotten as I forgot. Of course motivating him to want to learn this form of knowledge is the bigger challenge. It's just not important to him. He's more interested in his spiritual growth and what is going on in this world behind-the-scenes, so to speak. Still we need to know the physics of the world we live in. We need to know the basics and then some of how to manage our day to day lives in the physical world. Open curtain: In walks mom with her homework for the day...

"Perhaps, then, genius is most likely to emerge given the combination of high Intellect and high Openness, and one must risk madness to achieve genius."

Perhaps madness is but a stepping stone to genius or vice versa.

A list of famous people throughout history who have had a serious mental illness:

Abraham Lincoln - Sixteenth President of USA - suffered severe and incapacitating depressions.

Virginia Woolf - British novelist who wrote To the Lighthouse and Orlando - mood swings of bipolar disorder.

Lionel Aldridge - A defensive end for the Green Bay Packers of the 1960's - paranoid schizophrenia.

Ludwig van Beethoven - Brilliant composer - bipolar disorder.

John Keats - Renowned poet - mental illness.

Isaac Netwon - Scientist - manic depression, mental illness.

Michelangelo - One of the world's greatest artists - mental illness.

Winston Churchill - Prime Minister of UK - bipolar disorder.

Patty Duke - Academy Award-winning actress - manic-depressive, bipolar disorder.

Charles Dickens - One of the greatest authors in the English language - clinical depression.

Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Robert Schumann, Vivien Leigh among others. Who knows, in generations to come my son's name may well be among them - Spiritual Leader, Reiki Healer, New Age Guru - paranoid schizophrenia.


*Fluid intelligence (Gf), crystallized intelligence (Gc), quantitative reasoning (Gq), reading  and writing ability (Grw), short-term memory (Gsm), long-term storage and retrieval (Glr), visual processing (Gv), auditory processing (Ga), processing speed (Gs) and decision/reaction time/speed (Gt).

© August 2013

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