We don’t normally associate creativity with brain disease, but a recent paper published in Brain suggests that maybe we should. When we think of someone affected by a serious brain disorder, we imagine deterioration and loss of function, but a surprising new study shows that some people may actually develop artistic talent as a result of their brain disorder, and that in turn, their art can tell us about the nature of their brain disorder.
The brain has evolved to respond in predictable ways to threats in the physical environment. Similarly, the brain is attuned to identify and reinforce behaviours that benefit our survival. These threat and reward-related circuits are well described. For example the amygdala, the most well studies threat-related brain region, responds to universally threatening stimuli such as a threat of pain or an approaching tarantula.
People who have suffered traumatic brain injury or stroke often have serious, immediate deficits in motor, sensory, and cognitive function. Interestingly however, these functions often recover in the following weeks and months, without apparent reason. Until now, the repair mechanisms behind this spontaneous recovery have been a mystery. A recent study published in Brain demonstrates the ingenious ability of the central nervous system to repair itself after brain injury.
For some time, people have known that using cannabis during adolescence increases the risk of developing cognitive impairment and mental illness (e.g. depression, anxiety or schizophrenia) later in life. Importantly however, the mechanisms responsible for this vulnerability are not well understood. A new study, published in Brain, shows that long-term cannabis use that starts during adolescence damages the neural pathways connecting brain regions, and that this may cause the later development of cognitive and emotional problems.