For a long time, scientists have noted something curious about schizophrenia — there are almost no blind schizophrenics. The latest research now suggests that blindness does indeed protect a person from this psychological condition.
Blindness and schizophrenia
Researchers looked at data from about 467,945 kids born between 1980 and 2001 in Western Australia. Almost 1,870 children, or 0.4 percent of the total participants, were found to have developed schizophrenia. However, of the 66 kids in the sample who were born with cortical blindness, not a single one of them showed symptoms of schizophrenia.
“The protective phenomenon observed in case studies of people with congenital cortical blindness, and now supported by our whole-population data, warrants careful, clinical investigation,” the researchers wrote (Science Alert). The research covered people between the ages of 14 and 35. The study also found that the rate of schizophrenia was lower than normal even in people who only have peripheral blindness.
Another study found that the age at which vision loss happens plays a crucial role in determining whether a person becomes schizophrenic or not. The earlier a person becomes blind, the higher the possibility that they are protected from schizophrenia. The researchers also found that mere loss of sight was not the reason for a blind person’s immunity to schizophrenia. The way their brain and senses get rearranged post vision-loss has a major say. A blind person’s brain adapts by sharpening its processing of information from other senses.
“If a person with functioning eyesight is blinded, the auditory and tactile information that he or she receives will be chaotic, confusing, and potentially overwhelming. For a blind person, that just doesn’t happen, as the brain is used to processing this sort of information. Simply stated, their internal model of the world is simpler and more resilient to malfunctions,” according to ZME Science.
Schizophrenia and creativity
Many creative geniuses suffer from mental health issues like schizophrenia. A study that looked into the health records of 4.5 million people in Sweden discovered that people with art degrees were 90 percent more likely to be hospitalized for schizophrenia when compared to other less creative people.
“The hospitalizations were most likely to happen at some point during their 30s. What’s more, artists were 62 percent more likely to be admitted to hospital due to bipolar disorder and 39 percent more likely to go to hospital for depression. The researchers determined that it wasn’t simply the act of going to university that affected mental health, as those with law degrees did not have higher rates of these illnesses than the general population,” according to IFL Science.
As to why this happens, one theory suggests that the answer might lie in the way creative people think. Such individuals tend to link multiple ideas or concepts in a way that normal people would not. This risks making them mentally unstable, increasing the chances that they end up being schizophrenic or suffer from other psychological conditions like bipolar disorder.
Now, this does not mean that schizophrenia is something common in artistic people. Absolutely not. The rate of schizophrenia among such people is still on the lower side. It only appears to be higher when compared with regular, less creative populations.