Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Creative Brains

I came accross this article in Science Daily the other day on creative brains, and how there may be a biological basis for linking creativity to mental illness. Not that I'm excited about that sort of linkage but there was another aspect in the article that fascinated me and that's the notion that we have differing levels of "latent inhibition".

The Harvard University study, which appeared in the September 2003 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, said the brains of creative people appear to be more open to stimuli from the surrounding environment than other people's, whose brains shut out this same information through a process called "latent inhibition". Latent inhibition is "an animal's unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs." According to the researchers, creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition.

"This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment," said one. "The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities."

Low levels of latent inhibition may be a good thing if the person has the capacity to think about many things at once. "If you are open to new information, new ideas, you better be able to intelligently and carefully edit and choose. If you have 50 ideas, only two or three are likely to be good. You have to be able to discriminate or you'll get swamped."

And getting swamped, obviously would not be a good thing. Apparently having many things tumbling through your mind at once is also a precursor to schizophrenia, among other things. (Which is the aforementioned link to mental illness.... but we won't go there.)

I think I might be able to classify myself as a creative individual. I know that I relate strongly to this idea of latent inhibition. I do tend to struggle with all the things that come into my periphery -- in the sense that I am aware of them and sometimes feel overwhelmed by them. They are all interesting and I want to think them out, or they bug me and then I really want to think them through. Or maybe it's not that I'm so open, just that there's a lot of stuff out there bombarding all of us all the time.

I have 100s of ideas for Enclave, but I'm definitely experiencing overload and the sense of being swamped when it comes to discriminating. At least if that discrimination must be performed right away. If I give myself time to niggle it, as one of my son's English teachers put it, then it's not really overwhelming at all.

But it just shows, again, how different we all are, and what different paths we take through life and thus, the specifically different plan God has designed for each of us.