I have a professional interest in seeing patterns and big pictures: a lot of what futurists do involves finding (or imposing?) stories and trajectories in noisy data or cloudy crystal balls. So this piece in Big Think, which reports on a study linking depression to a capacity to find patterns, caught my eye:
People who have suffered from major depression are significantly better than other people at seeing a metaphorical forest, while the non-depressed are more alert to the trees, according to this study published a few months back in The Journal of Neuroscience. (I was led there by this New Scientist piece.) The paper suggests that depression isn't just a disease of emotion and thought–that it also alters perception.
Julie Golomb, a neuroscientist at Yale, ran a perceptual test on two groups: one of people with no history of depression and one of people who had recovered from two or more bouts of the disease. The volunteers were supposed to watch white bars moving across a gray background, and then decide which direction the motion had taken. The recovered depressed people did better when the image was large and strongly contrasted with the background; when the image was small and low-contrast, it was the non-depressives who scored best.
As New Scientist explains,
Depressed people have a shortage of a neurotransmitter called GABA; this has also been linked to a visual skill called spatial suppression, which helps us suppress details surrounding the object our eyes are focused on – enabling us to pick out a snake in fallen leaves, for instance.
This was a relatively simple experiment, so I wouldn't jump from this study to an assumption that hiring depressed futurists is a smart move for companies (though these days it's easy to be pessimistic about the future).