Normal service will be resumed (once the Creativity, Insight and Maverick Decisions are over).

At 9pm, BBC 2, 16th March 2013, Horizon aired a programme The Creative Brain “…How Insight Works”.- Here on BBC iplayer

My early notes, intended for assimilation into a larger essay/seminar are outlined the following based on the content of the programme (much of which relates to my investigation of the links between Reading/Empathy and Creativity) –:

1 – There could be a neurobiological explanation that shows that Creativity is not something some people are “given” as an “extra”, but is instead an aberrant behaviour, a shutting down of one part of the brain that by accident allows a process, or a set of processes that should not normally happen, to happen.

It seems that “normal brain function” shuts down when presented with extraordinary circumstance – such as the need for a creative solution – , almost like a panic mode, that leaves the brain to do the best it can with more unusual or not common connectivity and brain usage.

2 – The programme discussed “White matter” (the substance through which information is transmitted between various parts of the processing areas of the brain) and creativity, and suggested that the less white matter there was firing/transporting information correctly/normally the more likely creativity or that flash we call insight was to occur as new neural pathways where formed or utilised.

There is also a report (§) that looks at, but avoids interpretation of, results that show decreased depression through neuropsychological treatment in patients suffering from MS (White Matter damage)…

“These results could be explained by increased perceptual flexibility, creativity and learned visualization techniques due to the specific treatment given…” §

– Jønsson et al 1993, page 6.

[Or could it be interpreted as perhaps that the relationships are causal due not to the types of treatment given but due to the damage done to the white matter and the body’s/brain’s “re-trained” re-imagining of its usual processes?]

3 – The programme also discussed the shutting down of visual cortex during moments of insight, slowing down of traffic in the brain causes space for ideas to happen… for want of a better metaphor. But again here we have the discussion of the shutting down of some parts of the brain to allow creativity to happen.

…divergent thinking.

Dr Rex Jung – BBC2 program 14/03/13 – said that the shutting down of prefrontal cortex during improvisation (Dr Charles) means calculated risk taking is accessed/allowed. i.e. Insight, Divergent Thinking and Improvisation.

Simone Ritter believes that “Surprising Experience” invites the brain and ones personal thinking to be “more open” to new ways of solving or approaching problems. She has examined the sidestepping of “functional fixedness” through exposure to unusual experience (Related directly to my thoughts on Experience/Mirror Neurones/Vicarious Experience/Empathy etc.) in her virtual reality lab.

This can be described as “Schema Violation”* boosting creativity – (See the work we do in our Craft and Media Tech workshops in New Media).


Practical applications of this? – While potentially we could add work on – Disruptions to routines, driving a different way to work… The Brick Test… Maybe we could get the students to do this… Lego test, brick test, then demanding (build a Lego model/house) or mindless task** (sorting the Lego into colours) or staring into space (do nothing), then brick test again, …and a mundane task* like doodling or drawing from life can help…

**Could this be related to (procrastination Dave Windass’s TED) or paradolia experiments – Transient hyperfrontality, Rex? Induced by a meditative phase. Good problem solvers have lower base line activity in the frontal lobes.

This in itself might flag up problems with people who are “non-fluent readers” trying to learn whilst engaged in a process that is not mundane but instead difficult and anxiety educing…


Like apophenia, this seems to be abberant behaviour in the brain… something that the brain does, but is in fact making errors, or behaving against typical function when creativity and invention or insight occurs.

Yet it is clearly of evolutionary advantage. Aberrant Behaviours/Mis-functioning brain sections (frontal cortex closure etc.) much like the evolutionary advantage mistakes in genome transference has had.

“With a few exceptions, cells do not have specialized mechanisms for creating changes in the structures of their genomes: evolution depends instead on accidents and mistakes. Most of the genetic changes that occur result simply from failures in the normal mechanisms by which genomes are copied or repaired when damaged…”

– Genome Alterations are Caused by Failures of the Normal Mechanisms for Copying and Maintaining DNA – ¢

See Also – Charlie Rose Brain Series Episode Twelve: Creative Brain, a discussion about creativity with artists Richard Serra and Chuck Close, neurologist Oliver Sacks, Ann Temkin, chief curator of painting and sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art and Eric Kandel of Columbia University

Or looking at “Working on your Own” – Susan Cain on Introverts, Extroverts and Ambiverts (the ones in the middle) – Visual Version

§Jønsson, A., Korfitzen, E.M., Heltberg, A., Ravnborg, M.H. and Byskov-Ottosen, E. (1993), Effects of neuropsychological treatment in patients with multiple sclerosis. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 88: 394–400. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1993.tb05366.x (Page 6).

¢ – Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. How Genomes Evolve. Available from:

* (add term to overview visual)

~ by hesir on July 16, 2013.

One Response to “Normal service will be resumed (once the Creativity, Insight and Maverick Decisions are over).”

  1. […] Functional Fixedness […]

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