Mood Disorders and Creativity

Natalia Jaworska, Georg Northoff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In a broader cultural sense, mood disorders, particularly major depressive disorders (MDD) and bipolar disorders (BD), have been linked with greater creativity. However, empirical evidence for this relation is relatively scant. Nevertheless, existing data do suggest that highly creative individuals appear to display a higher incidence of mood disorders than their less creative counterparts. Creativity may also be somewhat higher in individuals with certain types of BD features. Current theories indicate that BD, which is comprised of manic or hypomanic and depressive episodes, may be more likely to be associated with creative thought and expression than depression. This may be because certain personality traits (e.g., novelty seeking) and psychological features (e.g., motivation and ambition), which are over-represented in BD, might be more conducive towards creative endeavours. On the other hand, depressed states may be favourable for introspection, which could, indirectly, lead to greater creativity when depression symptoms abate. From a neural perspective, a complex phenomenon such as creativity is likely subserved by interacting brain regional activity and networks. The same is true of mood disorders, which are largely characterized by a disturbed balance in activity within and between specific regions, and the networks that subserve them. Most consistently, the default mode network (DMN), has been implicated in mood disorders, and its activity has been linked with creativity. However, while the DMN may play an important link between creativity and mood disorders, it is unlikely to be the sole (or even key) element from a brain substrate perspective. Rather, creativity and mood disorders (i.e., highly complex phenomena) are likely underscored by modulations across the brain’s networks/activity (i.e., ‘whole brain phenomenon’), which are, in turn, driven by altered neurotransmitter activity (particularly, monoamine system function). In this chapter, we will explore the link between mood disorders and creativity by highlighting personality features, psychological phenomena and motivational aspects which could account for this link; we conclude by discussing some of the proposed underlying neuronal aspects linking creativity with mood disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Clinical Neurology
PublisherHumana Press Inc.
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCurrent Clinical Neurology
ISSN (Print)1559-0585
ISSN (Electronic)2524-4043


  • Bipolar disorder (BD)
  • Brain networks
  • Creativity
  • Depression/Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Monoamines
  • Mood disorders
  • Motivation
  • Personality traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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