Is there a link between high childhood IQ and bipolar disorder?

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Children who display high levels of intelligence, creativity and verbal proficiency may be at greater risk of developing bipolar disorder in adulthood, according to a new study.

Professor Daniel Smith, University of Glasgow, joined colleagues at the universities of Bristol, Cardiff and Texas to analyse data on more than 1,800 participants taking part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

They discovered that those children who scored in the top 10 per cent of manic features had an average childhood IQ almost 10 points higher than those scoring in the lowest 10 per cent of manic features.

“A possible link between bipolar disorder, intelligence and creativity has been discussed for many years and several studies have suggested a link.

“In this large study, we found that better performance on IQ tests at age 8 predicted bipolar features in young adulthood,” Smith explains.

The study’s authors examined data to see if there was an association between participants’ IQ at age 8 and lifetime manic features, which were assessed when they were 22-23 years old. The children’s verbal IQ (VIQ) and performance IQ (PIQ) were combined to give a full-scale IQ (FIQ) measurement.

To measure lifetime manic features the cohort was invited to complete a questionnaire assessing mood, energy and activity levels.

Professor Smith suggests that although other factors such as family history of mental illness, stressful life events and drug abuse can increase an individual’s chances of developing bipolar disorder, there is likely to be a shared biology between intelligence and the disorder.

“This work will inform future genetic studies at the interface of intelligence, creativity and bipolar disorder, and will help with efforts to improve approaches to the earlier detection of bipolar disorder in adolescents and young adults,” he concludes.

 

Further information

Read the full paper, ‘Childhood IQ and risk of bipolar disorder in adulthood: prospective birth cohort study’ by Daniel Smith (2015), published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.