Friday, May 7, 2010

Tapping Into Our Own Creativity Neurologically!

I am so excited... I just purchased a course from The Teaching Company (, titled "Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition" on DVD. It should arrive within a week. When I read the course description online, I salivated all over my keyboard. (Pavlov surely is spinning in his grave!) What interested me so much about the course is their discussion on the Frontal Cortex! Yeah, I hear you thinking.... BORING!!! Maybe.... but I will save judgement till after I see the course.
You see, the Frontal Cortex is the section of the brain that I knew had to exist but I did not know what I thought existed really existed.... Does that make any sense??? Let me explain before you quickly hit the Back button and go back to searching for what you were surfing for...

About a couple of years ago, I came to the conclusion that there had to be a part of the brain that is the "GOOD SENSE FILTER"! Think about it with this example...
Let's say that I am speeding down the road (my typical 70mph in a 35mph zone) and a cop has tagged me with his radar and is now on my tail flashing his lights and requesting that I pull over. WHAT DO I DO??? BIG DECISION!
A. I pull over and humbly acknowledge my guilt.
B. I pull over and come up with a tall tale of how I am rushing off to an emergency of some kind.
C. I ignore his request to pull over and just keep driving as if I never saw him.
D. I speed up and try to lose him.
E. I slam on the brakes and hope that he slams into the back of me... then I sue his ass for tailgating!
F. I pull over and pull out my .45 caliber and pump some slugs into the copper.
G. I roll down my window and try my luck at firing a few slugs at him while I drive.
H. I go on a rampage and run over every pedestrian I come across just to really make things worse.
I. I put my .45 caliber to my own head and pull the trigger.
Now you are probably thinking that I am out of mind for even considering options F - I. Why? Because you (nor I in reality) would ever consider those options. However, apart from you and I, there exist some people (very few) who would consider options F - I. And I know there are some people (slightly more) that would consider options C - E. And there are even more people that would consider option B. NOW THE $64K QUESTION.... WHY??? Why would some people consider some or all of the options and yet others would never consider most of them....

I believe it is because we all have a part of our brain that is responsible for filtering out options that it feels would NOT work or would not help us achieve what we want... Happiness, or Security or whatever our prime motivation is. For lack of knowledge of a technical name, I will call this part of the brain the "GOOD SENSE FILTER". When this decision is put to the brain to consider, I believe that our brain weighs out the pros and cons of many options including options like those I listed above. However, before a decision is made, all the options are first brought to the "GOOD SENSE FILTER" which then uses it's knowledge base and experience base to toss out those options that violate our "GOOD SENSE". That is why when I am faced with the decision of what to do when the cop is asking me to pull over, the only options that I would consider would maybe be A or B. The other options were considered in my subconscious but since they were weeded out by the "GOOD SENSE FILTER" they never appeared in my conscious thought! Hallelujah for the "GOOD SENSE FILTER"!!! Without it, I would surely be behind bars! And I honestly believe that it is the reason many people are behind bars!

From what I read in the course material that I purchased, I now believe this "GOOD SENSE FILTER" is none other than the Frontal Cortex! Here is what the course description says about the Frontal Cortex....

Insight into Yourself and Others

As you work through this thought-provoking and engaging material, you will learn much about your own behavior, not to mention that of others. One particularly intriguing region of the brain relating to behavior is the frontal cortex, which plays a central role in decision-making, gratification postponement, and other important functions. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that "makes you do the harder thing," whether it is concentrating on an unwelcome task, keeping anger under control, or telling a white lie about a spouse's new haircut. Consider these cases:

  • What happens when there is essentially no frontal cortex?: Railroad worker Phineas Gage suffered a massive frontal cortical lesion in a serious accident in the 1840s. Overnight, he changed from a sober, conscientious worker to a profane, aggressive, socially inappropriate man who could never regularly work again. The loss of his frontal cortex meant he lost his emotional regulation; he had no means to do the "harder thing."
  • What happens when the frontal cortex is "offline"?: During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the frontal cortex goes offline, which explains why dreams are often wild and unrepressed—why dreams are dreamlike. People don't dream about balancing a checkbook. They dream about dancing in musicals or floating in the air.
  • What happens when the frontal cortex is immature?: One of the great myths is that the brain is completely wired up and matured at a very early stage. However, the frontal cortex is not fully functional until an individual is about a quarter-century old—a fact that explains a lot of fraternity behavior, notes Professor Sapolsky. With this in mind, it's worth asking if a 16-year-old violent criminal is not, by definition, organically impaired in frontal cortical function.
WOW!!! Now doesn't this make you salivate too????

Now, here is some more theorizing on my part about this Frontal Cortex... This "GOOD SENSE FILTER" is obviously very important in our lives as it helps us make good decisions. However, I believe that it also LIMITS OUR THINKING! It limits our CREATIVITY! What is the difference between a "Creative" person and a "non-Creative" person besides the letters "non-"??? It is simply that a CREATIVE person does NOT filter out as many options for decisions or solutions that a non-creative person filters out. I believe that everybody in their subconscious comes up with many many solutions to our daily problems, but the CREATIVE person simply is the person whose "GOOD SENSE FILTER" is not as strong a filterer. NOW, before you egg heads say there is more to it than this... I agree with you... I also believe that there are many other factors such as the interconnectedness of the different parts of the brain that give rise to multi-disciplinary solutions. Another factor is simply experience and another is conceptual intelligence. BUT if we had a pair of twins with all of these other factors being equal, the person with the least filtering from the "GOOD SENSE FILTER" will end up coming up with more "creative" options to any problem.

I took a college course in Creative Thinking back in graduate school. It was the only truly FUN course I took. There was much advice as to how to develop our Creativity further, which I will discuss in couple of paragraphs. But for now, let me discuss the technique of using our dreams to help us solve problems. I am sure you have read the advice of putting a pad of paper and a pencil by our bed and whenever we wake up in the middle of the night with a crazy idea or dream, to write it down. I tried it but I was always to lazy to write in the middle of the night! But for those of you that remember your dreams, you know that you dream the craziest things at night. And you know that you also dream of yourself doing many things that you would NEVER CONSIDER doing in real life! And then there are those wonderful dreams where you can fly or do super-hero cool things.... Anyways, why is it we sometimes dream about things we would NEVER consider doing in real life??? Well, if you haven't figured it out already, it is because this "GOOD SENSE FILTER" goes offline at night when we dream. It is turned off! When I read about the Frontal Cortex going offline at night, well that cemented in my mind that the Frontal Cortex is indeed my hypothetical "GOOD SENSE FILTER"!

Now, why would the GOOD SENSE FILTER go offline at night? I have a couple of theories about this...
1. I believe that the true purpose of sleep is to record into long term memory our short term memories that are of significance. And in order to NOT compete with energy resources, the brain turns parts of the brain offline that it does not need in order to reserve energy for what it does need. Areas of the brain that are not needed at night are the motor cortex (at least the part that actually signals the spinal cord), the somatosensory cortex (which gets input from the senses), and the GOOD SENSE FILTER (aka Frontal Cortex).
2. Now another theory as to why the GOOD SENSE FILTER would be turned off at night is that it would or could come in conflict with the programming of the Long Term Memory. I believe that at night, our brain takes what is in our short term memory and then moves it to long term memory and records with NO BIAS. In other words, it records even things that we DO NOT WANT TO REMEMBER! Like those lies I told during the day... All of that gets recorded. I believe that this would or could be in conflict with what the GOOD SENSE FILTER would want to be recorded. An evidence of this may be the cases where people have "forgotten" traumatic events in their life. Indeed they are not forgotten but simply the GOOD SENSE FILTER was programmed to not allow those memories to be accessed by our consciousness. Yet under hypnosis or in our dreams, these events are NOT forgotten and are played back. Hence, there can be possible conflicts between our memory processes and what the GOOD SENSE FILTER will allow. The body in its evolution opted to let the memory processes win and chose to turn off the GOOD SENSE FILTER at night.
Probably the truth will be neither of these... But at least these are theories...

Now, getting back to the TITLE of this blog post... "Tapping Into Our Own Creativity Neurologically!" How can we train ourselves to be more creative??? Well, here are some of my ideas.
1. HUMOR!!! Listening and TRYING to be humorous requires that we open our mind to different ways of thinking. Yes, go buy a joke book and read it! Go to the library and check out audio CD's of Comedians. I have done this and have quite a collection of pirated MP3's of comedy routines! (please don't tell the FBI on me!)
2. LOSE YOUR FEAR OF FAILURE!!! Many options, solutions, and creative decisions are filtered out by the GOOD SENSE FILTER due to an inherent FEAR OF FAILURE! Purposely look for opportunities to take more risks in your day to day life! Live life a little more on the edge! Now here is where I fear that someone taking this advice of mine will end up in prison or dead, and I will be the one blamed! I will then take that risk and stick with my advice.... Live life on the edge! Lose your fears! Overcome your fears! Just please don't sue me if it you do something too stupid!
3. Take up a new ARTISTIC hobby! Have you ever noticed that artists are the craziest people alive? The more artistic they are the crazier they are... Michael Jackson, Boy George, Madonna, Picasso, Salvador Dali are just a few of the craziest of them! Of course, I am synonymizing "crazyness" with "creativity". There is a strong relationship between artistry and creativity! So learn to paint. Or learn to sing. Or learn to dance. Or learn to weld crazy structures and place them in your front yard like one of my favorite artists did... Starr Kempf. See... for photos of his work. This artist unfortunately ended up killing himself! Now, why would he kill himself or even consider it??? By now you should have figured it out... His GOOD SENSE FILTER was not filtering as much as others which explains why he even considered option I above. AND it also correlates with his artistic nature. My advice is take up art... but don't go so far as to kill yourself over it!
4. EXPLORE and DISCOVER! My wife hates this habit of mine. I inherited this from my father. If there are a hundred ways to drive from point A to point B, then I want to drive all 100 even if I do not know if a course will indeed get me there. My dad did this often when I was a kid and we at times got "lost" even though my father would never admit to being lost. But eventually we would find our way, arrive late, and all would be well regardless. LOL! As a result of this, I always know the shortcuts and I learn new things along the way. The act of forcing ourselves to explore new roads, new methods of doing things, is forcing our GOOD SENSE FILTER to open up and relax a little!
5. Try seeing things from the eyes of other people! Try to feel what they feel. Try to understand why certain people do what they do. Try to judge people less and instead try to simply see where they are coming from. Try being sympathetic to ideas that you would not consider. If you are a republican, try thinking like a democrat. If you are a democrat, try thinking like a republican. If you are a libertarian, then God Bless You, you are already perfect! LOL. If you are a Christian, try thinking like a Jew or a Muslim. If you are a Jew or Muslim, try Christianity on for size. If you are atheist, try envisioning what God would or could be like. Being sympathetic to others forces you to consider other ideas that you might not normally consider and works those creative muscles in your head. This does not have to be a permanent change of life... just thinking about it is enough to open your creative mind!
6. Some other things I learned about in my Creativity course at college... Try writing with your other hand. Try looking at the bottom of everything, in other words, try to see things from new angles. Try learning a new language. Try speaking in Pig Latin... All of these things have an effect of giving you new experiences and exercising new areas of the brain which help in being more creative.

Soon this DVD course I purchased online should be arriving and I will spend my free time for the following 12 hours soaking it all up. I hope that indeed the course will confirm my theories about the GOOD SENSE FILTER being our Frontal Cortex. And hopefully I will learn more things to discuss in this blog! Keep tuned....


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