Neuroscientists have discovered a naturally occurring brain chemical that they say can make highly intelligent people more creative, but has the opposite affect on those who are merely average.

N-acetyl-aspartate is a chemical that, when found in high levels in the left parieto-occipital lobe, is associated with high levels of intelligence. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque found that when present in people with IQs higher than 120, it boosts their ability for divergent thinking, “a factor in creativity that includes coming up with novel ideas, such as new uses for everyday objects.”

Those people with high levels of NAA whose IQs were below 120 however, were found to have decreased levels of divergent thinking.

While scientists aren’t entirely sure how NAA affects the human mind, team lead Rex Jung describes the interplay between NAA and creativity thusly:

“People say you have to let your mind wander freely to be creative. For people of average intelligence, perhaps it’s true that you need to utilize more areas of your [frontal cortex] for something truly novel and creative to emerge, but in more intelligent folks, there’s something different going on.”

More study into the area is definitely required before any concrete conclusions can be drawn, but Jung hopes his findings can shed some light on how the brains of the world’s most famous thinkers, such as Albert Einstein, function.

“I don’t think his IQ was ever tested, but it was likely around 120 — high, but not stratospheric. I would have loved to see what his ACG looked like, as IQ alone did not get him there, in my opinion, but rather intelligence plus creativity,” Jung says.


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