Children who have higher intelligence compared to their peers are often considered the top of their class, but according to a new study conducted by scientists in the United Kingdom this trait could also lead to an increase risk in the development of bipolar disorder later in life.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow studied data collected from a large birth cohort in order to determine the intelligence quotient (IQ) of 1,881 children at the age of eight years old. They then reexamined the participants for manic traits when they were 22 to 23 years old.

The research team made use of a checklist that is often utilized for diagnosing bipolar disorder. Each participant was provided a score of up to 100, depending on the number of manic traits that they have experienced previously.

Participants who received a score within the top 10 percent of manic traits were found to have a childhood IQ that is close to 10 points higher compared to those who were included in the lower 10 percent of the group. This correlation was mostly seen among participants who had stronger verbal IQ.

Glasgow researcher Daniel Smith, who led the team of investigators, said that the findings provide a potential explanation regarding how bipolar disorder may affect different generations of individuals.

He pointed out that the genetics involved in the mental disorder could prove to be advantageous. He said that one possibility is that severe mood disorders, including as bipolar disorder, are the consequence of having adaptive traits such as creativity, verbal proficiency and intelligence.

Smith added that as things stand, having a high intelligence quotient is merely an advantage.

"A high IQ is not a clear-cut risk factor for bipolar, but perhaps the genes that confer intelligence can get expressed as illness in the context of other risk factors, such as exposure to maternal influenza in the womb or childhood sexual abuse," Smith said.

The results of the Glasgow study offer support to earlier research findings that suggest that people who have a higher genetic risk to develop bipolar disorder were more likely to display more creative abilities. This was most notably seen in areas involving verbal proficiency such as in leadership roles and literature.

The researchers hope that their findings will be able to help improve how early detection of the mental disorder is carried out.

The University of Glasgow is featured in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Photo: Lucélia Ribeiro | Flickr 

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