Three common indices of creativity are fluency, originality and flexibility. Among these indices, originality, in other word novelty, can be measured by a number of unique ideas of which others can not think so easily. As for figural originality, this is a simple example to look at skill: Three line drawings are represented and you are asked to list as many things as each line drawing could be. Finish each task within four minutes and compare your drawing with your friends, partner or family members. Which answer was the uniquest? Who gave the largest number of unique drawings? Then, why is the ability different between individual to individual?

It has been reported that creativity is closely related to human development and achievement at both the individual and societal level. Despite its importance, the underlying mechanism of how creativity works is not completely understood. A great number of neuroscience and cognitive studies have reported that the involvement of dopamine (DA) transmission is a critical component in the cognitive processes of creativity. Hence, genes in DA transmission have been of particular interest to explain individual differences in creativity. Amongst these genes,the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene (COMT) and dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2) have been studied most extensively. The enzyme encoded by the COMT gene is involved in the inactivation of catecholamine neurotransmitters, such as DA and noradrenaline, and is the main factor controlling DA levels in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The DRD2 gene encodes one of five DA receptors and plays an important role in mediating synaptic DA signaling. Variants of these two genes have been repeatedly implicated in creativity-related cognitive functions, such as working memory and cognitive control.

A group of researchers led by S. Zhang (2014) reported novel DRD2 SNPs and haplotypes which are associated with creative potential measured by divergent thinking (DT) tests in the Han Chinese population. To understand the genetic variants covering these genes thoroughly, the researchers systematically investigated the association of COMT related genetic polymorphisms with creative potential using the same approach, DT tests that are commonly used to estimate creativity, in the same sample. In this study, SNPs covering COMT were genotyped in 543 healthy Chinese college students. For the figural DT test, three line drawings were represented and participants were asked to list as many things as each drawing could be. Four minutes were allowed for each task and all tasks were scored for fluency, flexibility and originality according to the guidelines of the Creativity Testing Service. Briefly, the fluency score was obtained by counting the number of unduplicated responses given by each participant, while the originality score was calculated by counting the number of unusual responses (responses given by less than 5% of the sample). Association analysis showed that the A allele of rs4680 in the COMT gene had an additive effect in direction of higher figural originality. It has been reported that the A allele has lower COMT enzymatic activity than the G allele,thereby leading to less efficient degradation of DA and higher DA levelinth synaptic cleft.

This result Is in line with previous findings that the A allele of rs4680 is associated with better creativity related cognitive performance such as working memory, and creativity related personality traits such as novelty seeking. However, it is also important to note that the previously reported association of rs4680 with DT fluency was not replicated in this study. One possible explanation for this discrepancy could be the genetic heterogeneity between Han Chinese and Caucasians. Read more about the study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24782743

Are you interested in learning more about your genetic tendency for figural originality? You can login to your Genomelink dashboard to see this new genetic trait.

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Figural Originality

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