Monday, April 8, 2013

Bad, bad prefrontal lobe

A guy at National Institutes of Health has offered to map Stephen Colbert's brain. That's pretty trippy, if a little scary.

Anyhow, Alison Gopnik, WSJ, Apr 6-7, 2013, says our prefrontal area--known for control and focus--may make it harder to think creatively.

This is like the brain's CEO, she says, responsible for long-term planning, monitoring, and distraction-squelching.

See, it's that squelching that can stamp out a half-formed weird idea. They have MRI-ed this and the control part stays lit up when musicians followed a score, but tended to dial back when they improvised.

But this was not conclusive, just suggestive. So the scientists (mad and otherwise) got people to volunteer to have a current passed through their prefrontal area while they were trying to improvise a new use for Kleenex. A control group got tricked into thinking they were being zapped, but they weren't.

The zapped crowd thought up more offbeat uses and did it faster.

Don't get too excited--if you were to ever find a way to turn off the "CEO" permanently, how would you decide which ideas were worth keeping or pursuing and which should go to File 13?

This whole posting made me remember once, back in DC, when the American Psychiatric Assn wanted to build a new building on the site of a bar we all liked. The regulars, of course, rebelled and the slogan was: "I would rather have a bottle of beer in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy."

[No reason--I just love that slogan.]

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If this is for some stupid black market pill, you are not being very creative..