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Who you are can largely be defined by the personal interests you develop over a lifetime. Scientists now think that many personal interests may be genetically predetermined. A new study suggests that a family history of psychiatric disorders like autism and depression could influence what you find to be interesting.
This new study indicates a link between psychiatric conditions and aptitude in the arts and sciences. Other studies have looked at occupations or the activities of highly creative people. This study indicates that the influence of familial neuropsychiatric traits on personal interests is independent of a person’s talent or career path and could even inform a person’s basic personality.
Princeton researchers surveyed nearly 1100 students from their own Class of 2014 during their freshman year to determine their intellectual interests. They were also asked to indicate a variety of disorder in their immediate family including mood disorders, substance abuse or autism. These students were old enough to have defined interests and known aptitudes, but are not yet on a career path.
Students interested in the humanities were twice as likely to have a relative affected by a mood disorder or substance abuse. Science and technical majors were three times more likely to report a sibling with an autism spectrum disorder. The data suggests that heritable psychiatric conditions are linked to a person’s intellectual interests.
The connection was interesting even for Aristotle who famously said “eminent in philosophy, politics, poetry and the arts have all had tendencies toward melancholia.”
“Altogether, results of our study and those like it suggest that scientists should start thinking about the genetic roots of normal function as much as we discuss the genetic causes of abnormal function. This survey helps show that there might be common cause between the two,” said Sam Wang an associate professor in Princeton’s Department of Molecular Biology and The Princeton Neuroscience Institute .
Source: PLoS ONE, ScienceDaily
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