Szabolcs Keri, a psychiatrist at Semmelweis University in Hungary, focused his research on neuregulin 1, a gene that normally plays a role in a variety of brain processes, including development and strengthening communication between neurons.
Writing about the study in the journal Psychological Science, he has revealed that a variant of this gene is associated with a greater risk of developing mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
For the study, Keri and his colleagues recruited volunteers who considered themselves to be very creative and accomplished.
The participants underwent a battery of tests, including assessments for intelligence and creativity.
To measure the volunteers' creativity, the researchers asked them to respond to a series of unusual questions, and scored them based on the originality and flexibility of their answers.
The subjects also completed a questionnaire regarding their lifetime creative achievements before the researchers took blood samples.
According to the researchers, their findings showed a clear link between neuregulin 1 and creativity, for volunteers with the specific variant of this gene were more likely to have higher scores on the creativity assessment, and also greater lifetime creative achievements, than volunteers with a different form of the gene.
Keri claims that his study has for the first time shown that a genetic variant associated with psychosis may have some beneficial functions.
He says: "Molecular factors that are loosely associated with severe mental disorders but are present in many healthy people may have an advantage enabling us to think more creatively."
His findings also suggest that certain genetic variations, even though associated with adverse health problems, may survive evolutionary selection and remain in a population's gene pool if they also have beneficial effects.