I am interested in the phenomenon of ‘seeing’ because it
encapsulates the mystery of meaning. The moment of recognition
happens as if by magic; and yet, when we reflect on it, we see- its
very name tells us this-that it is impossible without prior
experience. What becomes puzzling then is the phenomenon
of insight, the creation (apparently) of new meaning. Here, we
forget that to recognize can mean to re-think, as in think through
differently. It need not always signify mere repetition of a former
cognition. We say in such cases not only that we recognize x (as Y),
but that we realize x is Y.
In fact, we almost never use the word ‘recognize’ -even in the
most straightforward cases of identification or recall – unless there
is some problem: we don’t see her face clearly, or she has changed,
or we met only briefly years ago. That is, ‘recognition’, even in
apparently straightforward cases, involves re-organization of
experience- an act of contextualization, a sensing of connexions
between aspects of immediate experience and other experiences.
Thus, the experiences of seeing how an assemblage of parts must
go together, recognizing an old friend in an unfamiliar setting, and
understanding a metaphor are species of the same phenomenon.
They all involve insight, understood as re-cognition; a gestalt shift.
And this is the original of meaning.
— Jan Zwicky, Wisdom & Metaphor
Creeping out of the silence I come.; hoping that nobody will notice.
I lay all absence at the foot of my novel. Scheduled programming will return eventually.
In the mean time…
Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works.Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia.Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought.It could be this uninhibited processing that allows creative people to “think outside the box”, say experts from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute.In some people, it leads to mental illness.But rather than a clear division, experts suspect a continuum, with some people having psychotic traits but few negative symptoms.
BBC News – Creative minds ‘mimic schizophrenia’.
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From Boing Boing:
When some religiously devout people hear a charismatic healer speak the word of god , the regions of their brains involved in skeptical thinking and vigilance appear to shut down. Uffe Schjødt of Aarhus University in Denmark and his colleagues scanned the brains of Pentecostalists while they listened to recorded prayers from non-Christians, “ordinary” Christians, and a healer. The brain activity changed only in response to prayers they were told came from the healer. According to Schjødt, the same deactivation may occur in response to the words of physicians, parents, politicians, and other charismatic leaders. The researchers published their results in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. From New Scientist:
Parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices, which play key roles in vigilance and scepticism when judging the truth and importance of what people say, were deactivated when the subjects listened to a supposed healer. Activity diminished to a lesser extent when the speaker was supposedly a normal Christian.
Schjødt says that this explains why certain individuals can gain influence over others, and concludes that their ability to do so depends heavily on preconceived notions of their authority and trustworthiness.
“Brain shuts off in response to healer’s prayer”
Hearing prayer shuts off believers’ brain activity – Boing Boing.
Mental health problems and creativity have long gone hand in hand. It seems as if the very kernel of what it means to create, in what ever arena, is instrinsincly tied up with being fucked up in the head in some manner. Of course, being fucked up in the head doesn’t mean your going to be a creative nexus of greatness. Sometimes I take great comfort in this fact. Sometimes I don’t. It might just mean your fucked up in the head.
Not that ‘Neurological’ indicate mental health exclusively. The article actually focusses mainly on other things such as massive physical trauma as a trigger for neurological problems. I just got mental health on my mind I guess. Teehee.
Scribd has the entire facinating essay and Mind Hacks, where I found the link, has this to say:
I’ve just re-read an interesting biographical study from last year on the ‘Neurological problems of jazz legends’ and noticed a interesting snippet about Charlie Parker:
As a result of a car accident as a teenager, Parker became addicted to morphine and, in turn, heroin. Contemporary musicians took similar drugs, hoping to emulate his playing. Through the 1940s, Parker’s career flourished. He recorded some of his most famous tunes, including ‘‘Billie’s Bounce’’ and ‘‘Koko.’’ Yet, he also careened erratically between incredible playing and extreme bouts of alcohol and drug abuse. This deteriorated in 1946, when after the recording of the song ‘‘Lover Man,’’ Parker became inebriated in his hotel room, set fire to his mattress, and ran through the hotel lobby wearing only his socks. Parker was arrested and committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, where he stayed for 6 months. This stay inspired the song ‘‘Relaxin at Camarillo (1947).’’
The track Relaxin at Camarillo is available on YouTube and it has a wonderfully rambling swing-backed sound. As far as I know, it is the only song about a stay at a mental hospital, but as musicians have had more than their fair share of hospital stays, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were any others, so do let me know if you know of any others.
And here’s that track.
Oh yeah, and that massive physical truama being a trigger thing? I can relate.
But that, my dear reader, is a tale for a completely different blogpost at some point in the distant future.
It turns out that there is a striking similarity between how the human brain determines what is going on in the outside world and the job of scientists. Good science involves formulating a hypothesis and testing whether this hypothesis is compatible with the scientist’s observations. Researchers in the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt together with the University of Glasgow have shown that this is what the brain does as well. A study shows that it takes less effort for the brain to register predictable as compared to unpredictable images.
Alink and colleagues based this conclusion on the characteristics of responses in the primary visual cortex. It is known that the primary visual cortex is critical for vision and that responses in this brain area create a map of what we are currently looking at. Alink and colleagues, however, for the first time show that images induce smaller responses in this area when they are predictable. The implication of this finding is that the brain does not just sit and wait for visual signals to arrive. Instead, it actively tries to predict these signals and when it is right it is rewarded by being able to respond more efficiently. If it is wrong, massive responses are required to find out why it is wrong and to come up with better predictions.
I wonder if the brains of religious types work more on a dogmatic and faith based mechanism?
Brain Naturally Follows Scientific Method | Technoccult.
From New Scientist magazine, via 23narchy in the uk. An article on science and meditation, with interview of researcher on the subject, brought to you in extract form only because I dig 23narchy and want to send them my sweet traffic lovin’.
How did you become involved in the science of meditation?
The Dalai Lama often describes Buddhism as being, above all, a science of the mind. That is not surprising, because the Buddhist texts put particular emphasis on the fact that all spiritual practices – whether mental, physical or oral – are directly or indirectly intended to transform the mind.
So it wasn’t surprising that when a meeting was held in 2000 with some of the leading specialists in human emotions – psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers – they spent an entire week in discussion with the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala, India. Later we agreed to launch a research programme on the short and long-term effects of mind training – “meditation” in other words.
What have we discovered about meditation and the human brain?
Experiments have indicated that the region of the brain associated with emotions such as compassion shows considerably higher activity in those with long-term meditative experience. These discoveries suggest that basic human qualities can be deliberately cultivated through mental training. The study of the influence of mental states on health, which was once considered fanciful, is now an increasing part of the scientific research agenda.
Why bother meditating? | New Scientist – 23narchy in the UK.
The brain’s innate interest in the new and different may help trump the power of addictive drugs, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. In controlled experiments, novelty drew cocaine-treated rats away from the place they got cocaine.
Novelty could help break the vicious cycle of treatment and relapse, especially for the many addicts with novelty-craving, risk-taking personalities, the authors said. Drug-linked settings hold particular sway over recovering addicts, which may account in part for high rates of relapse.
Science Daily: Novelty Lures Rats from Cocaine-Paired Settings, Hinting at New Treatments for Recovering Addicts