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The Psychological Disorder Game

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  • Mike Tintner
    A game that literati should be good at. Take any psychological disorder or problem as recognized by scientific psychology or psychiatry, and find a literary
    Message 1 of 7 , Aug 5, 2006
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      A game that  literati should be good at.

      Take any psychological disorder or problem as recognized by scientific psychology or psychiatry, and find a literary work that illustrates and ideally explains it - even if only intuitively and in a particular case.. I've given myself an easy example. There was the woman who suffered from severe anxiety attacks, insomnia and nightmares. Rather puzzling at first. Except that she was Lady Macbeth.

      ADHD? Depression? Fits of aggression? Obsessional compulsive disorder? Anxiety attacks? Etc.?

    • William Benzon
      ... Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer. -- William L. Benzon, Ph. D. 708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A Jersey City, NJ 07302 201 217-1010 Mind-Culture Coevolution:
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 5, 2006
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        Re: [biopoet] The Psychological Disorder Game


        on 8/5/06 1:02 PM, Mike Tintner at andarot@... wrote:


         
         

        A game that  literati should be good at.

        Take any psychological disorder or problem as recognized by scientific psychology or psychiatry, and find a literary work that illustrates and ideally explains it - even if only intuitively and in a particular case.. I've given myself an easy example. There was the woman who suffered from severe anxiety attacks, insomnia and nightmares. Rather puzzling at first. Except that she was Lady Macbeth.

        ADHD?

        Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer.


        --

        William L. Benzon, Ph. D.
        708 Jersey Avenue, Apt. 2A
        Jersey City, NJ 07302
        201 217-1010

        Mind-Culture Coevolution: http://asweknowit.ca/evcult/
      • Stephen Berer
        ... You probably know of the brilliant novel by Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. There is no finer description of one form of
        Message 3 of 7 , Aug 5, 2006
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          A game that  literati should be good at....
          ADHD? Depression? Fits of aggression? Obsessional compulsive disorder? Anxiety attacks? Etc.?

          You probably know of the brilliant novel by Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  There is no finer description of one form of autism; indeed a textbook on the subject.
          Less well known, and yet to my mind one of the finest writers of all time, Gerard de Nerval.  His Aurelia is a must-read for any number of reasons, but for the purposes of this post, a remarkable insight into a form schizophrenia in first person.  The Three Maria's is another novel about another form of schizophrenia.
          Perhaps not exactly in the category of this game, but a book that was very helpful to me in earlier researches was The Inner World of Mental Illness, edited by Bert Kaplan, subtitled, "A series of first person accounts of what it was like." My edition is from 1964.
          The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, and Fragments by Binjamin Wilkomirsky both document, among other things the effects of extreme trauma.
          Hunter Thompson for various illnesses, many induced, but especially paranoia.  Also Othello for paranoia/jealousy and sociopathic envy/hate.
          Fits of aggression: the classic, and intended to address just this subject: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
          Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is written from the perspective of 3 different troubled minds.  Been a while since I read it, but the Quentin section for obsession and depression, for sure; the Benjy section for downs syndrome (?); and the Jason section -- meanness, maybe <smile>.
          J. Huysmans, Against Nature.  Awesome book. Obsessive compulsive, I think.
          Eddie Poe and Johnny Swift explore lots of pretty strange states with monstrously fine talent.

          Got a great laugh, from William Benzon's post: ADHD: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, altho, honestly speaking, I would disagree.  Perhaps Tom Sawyer was delusional, but I'd say Huck Finn has about the soundest mind of any character in literature!

          all the best,
          smb

                   The trueth iz a thred, it maezlike weev
                   Akross the mobeyus warp ov yur Addom
                   And its Shaddiy Seel, wun an the same.
                            from Pardaes Dokkumen (work in progress)
                           http://www.shivvetee.com
                           http://shivvetee.blogspot.com/
        • chorea_97
          There s an essay on autism and Bartleby available on the Net. ... scientific psychology or psychiatry, and find a literary work that illustrates and ideally
          Message 4 of 7 , Aug 6, 2006
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            There's an essay on autism and Bartleby available on the Net.

            --- In biopoet@yahoogroups.com, Mike Tintner <andarot@...> wrote:
            >
            > A game that literati should be good at.
            >
            > Take any psychological disorder or problem as recognized by
            scientific psychology or psychiatry, and find a literary work that
            illustrates and ideally explains it - even if only intuitively and in a
            particular case.. I've given myself an easy example. There was the
            woman who suffered from severe anxiety attacks, insomnia and
            nightmares. Rather puzzling at first. Except that she was Lady Macbeth.
            >
            > ADHD? Depression? Fits of aggression? Obsessional compulsive
            disorder? Anxiety attacks? Etc.?
            >
          • Mike Tintner
            Thanks for all replies. Yes, I thought of Tom Sawyer too - the fence painting scene for me, shows that anything, even watching paint dry, can be fascinating if
            Message 5 of 7 , Aug 8, 2006
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              Thanks for all replies.

              Yes, I thought of Tom Sawyer too - the fence painting scene for me,
              shows that anything, even watching paint dry, can be fascinating if
              framed correctly, and in that way questions ADHD.

              Thanks, Stephen, for various suggestions. Huysmans doesn't strike me
              as obsessive compulsive - that's repeating mundane rituals, no? But
              the consequences of his solitary aesthete's lifestyle for his nerves,
              (not very sketched in), perhaps relate very loosely to the example I
              give below.

              Thanks also for autism/ Bartleby suggestion.

              Underlying the "game" is a serious idea, which is that most
              psychiatric problems simply don't make much sense WITHOUT
              illustrations from the dramatic/ narrative arts. Psychiatrists
              themselves have a hard time agreeing about them. Think of borderline
              personality disorder. Any suggestions?

              Here's another interesting example that came from a lit-med group I
              put the game to - a novel about temporary lobe epilepsy and visions,
              which although I have no experience of such matters, seems to suggest
              an obvious explanation: anyone who so cuts themself off from the world
              like the nun heroine is liable to such problems.

              AMAZON rEVIEW:

              In his third novel, Lying Awake, Mark Salzman breaks the primary rule
              of fiction by creating a protagonist who has virtually no external
              life. Sister John of the Cross, a middle-aged nun cloistered in a
              Carmelite monastery in contemporary Los Angeles, languished for years
              in a spiritual drought--"her prayers empty and her soul dry"--until
              she suddenly received God's grace in the form of intense mystical
              visions. So vivid have her visions become that they burn a kind of
              afterglow into her mind that she transcribes into crystalline (and
              highly popular) verse. The only downside is that they are accompanied
              by excruciating headaches that cause her to black out.

              The story hinges on Sister John's discovery that her visions are in
              fact the result of mild epileptic seizures. As she learns from her
              neurologist, temporal-lobe epilepsy commonly brings about
              "hypergraphia (voluminous writing), an intensification but also a
              narrowing of emotional response, and an obsessive interest in religion
              and philosophy." Dostoyevsky, the classic victim of this condition,
              wrote of his raptures: "There are moments, and it is only a matter of
              five or six seconds, when you feel the presence of eternal harmony....
              If this state were to last more than five seconds, the soul could not
              endure it and would have to disappear." An exact description of Sister
              John's visions. The question she now faces is whether to go ahead with
              surgery--and risk obliterating both her spiritual life and her art--or
              cling to a state of grace that may actually be a delusion ignited by
              an electrochemical imbalance.

              Using a very limited palette, Mark Salzman creates an austere
              masterpiece. The real miracle of Lying Awake is that it works
              perfectly on every level: on the realistic surface, it captures the
              petty squabbles and tiny bursts of radiance of life in a Los Angeles
              monastery; deeper down it probes the nature of spiritual illumination
              and the meaning and purpose of prayer in everyday life; and, at
              bottom, there lurks a profound meditation on the mystery of artistic
              inspiration. Salzman made a highly auspicious debut in 1986 with Iron
              and Silk, a memoir of his years in China, and since then he has
              dramatically changed key in every book--most recently from the
              absurdist American suburban chronicle of Lost in Place to the
              artistic-crisis-cum-courtroom-drama novel The Soloist. Lying Awake is
              quieter and more sober than Salzman's previous narratives, but it is
              also more accomplished, more thought-provoking, and more highly
              crafted. --David Laskin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

              From Publishers Weekly
              Mysticism meets modern medicine in this intriguing r?cit of a nun's
              dark night of the soul. It's 1997, and Sister John of the Cross, a
              Carmelite nun in a monastery just outside Los Angeles, seeks treatment
              for epilepsy, although the remedy threatens to diminish her formidable
              spiritual powers. The Carmelites place heavy emphasis on prayer, and
              over the years this discipline has helped Sister John to develop
              miraculous visionary gifts. When severe headaches precipitate a
              collapse that requires medical intervention, Sister John finds the
              process starkly juxtaposed against her centuries-old traditions: she
              discovers it's almost impossible to discuss infused contemplation with
              a neurologist. Is her continual prayer "hyperreligiosity"?; her choice
              to remain celibate "hyposexuality"?; her will to control her body
              "anorexia"? Although she accepts a CT scan and its diagnosis, Sister
              John determines that faith offers a more substantial, meaningful
              reality. Written with simple elegance, alternating narrative and
              prayer, the tale is engaging yet maintains a curious emotional
              elusiveness. A drama centering on the realm of mysticism is bound to
              be difficult to describe and, like Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy,
              this story doesn't aim to render the nun's spiritual life and psyche
              in accessible terms for lay readers. What Salzman conveys with perfect
              clarity is that momentary, extraordinary mental state in which
              physical pain becomes pure, lucid grace poised between corporeal
              reality and eternity, a state that Sister John desires to prolong for
              a lifetime. Salzman's talent for calling forth the details and essence
              of unfamiliar realms is well known: his memoir, Iron & Silk, was
              acclaimed for its deft rendering of life in China, no less authentic
              for being written by an outsider. With this third novel (after The
              Soloist), the author continues to surprise with his unorthodox choices
              and consistently challenging themes, story lines and characters. Eight
              illus. by Stephanie Shieldhouse. (Sept.) FYI: The Soloist was a
              finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction.



              The Vision of the Chariot: Transcendent Experience and Temporal Lobe
              Epilepsy

              Temporal lobe epilepsy has been linked to divine encounters, artistic
              creation and fearful visitations from other realms. Pickover examines
              some of the implications of current research into this mysterious disease.

              by Clifford Pickover

              SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1999—Temporal lobe epilepsy has often been linked to
              a variety of transcendent experiences: ecstatic communion with the
              divine, epiphanies of artistic creation, fearful encounters with alien
              beings. Clifford Pickover examines some of the implications of current
              research now shedding light on the terrors and wonders of this
              mysterious disease.

              Treading the Labyrinth

              "With TLE, I see things slightly different than before. I have visions
              and images that normal people don't have. Some of my seizures are like
              entering another dimension, the closest to religious or spiritual
              feelings I've ever had. Epilepsy has given me a rare vision and
              insight into myself, and sometimes beyond myself, and it has played to
              my creative side. Without TLE, I would not have begun to sculpt."

              This testimony comes from a woman who suffers from — and, obviously,
              often exults in — temporal lobe epilepsy. This condition (TLE, for
              short), is caused by unusual electrical activity in the brain's
              temporal lobes A significant proportion of people with TLE report that
              their seizures often bring on extraordinary experiences of
              transcendent wonder, luminous insight — or, at times, harrowing,
              uncanny fear.

              Take, for example, the numerous reported cases of "alien abduction."
              TLE researcher Eve LaPlante has noted that many abductees feel mild,
              epileptic-like symptoms just before they are "captured." Some
              abductees feel heat on one side of their faces, hear a ringing in
              their ears, and see flashes of light prior to an abduction. Others
              report a cessation of sound and feeling, or an overwhelming feeling of
              apprehension. All of this is typical of certain kinds of epileptic
              seizures. In fact, LaPlante suggests that the most famous abductee of
              our time, best-selling author Whitley Strieber, suffers from TLE.

              In 1987, Strieber wrote the book Communion which described his
              abduction by 3 1/2 foot aliens with two dark holes for eyes. In his
              account, Strieber exhibits various symptoms of TLE: jamais vu (the
              feeling of never having been in what should be a familiar place — the
              opposite of deja vu); formication (feeling bugs crawling under the
              skin); vivid smells, hallucinations, rapid heartbeats, the sensation
              of rising and falling, and partial amnesia. Magnetic resonance imaging
              of Strieber's brain has revealed "occasional punctate foci of high
              signal intensity" in his left temporoparietal region, which is
              suggestive of scarring that could lead to TLE.

              Such alien abduction stories can tell us about the workings of the
              mind. Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at Laurentian University in
              Sudbury, Ontario, found that people with frequent bursts of electrical
              activity in their temporal lobes report sensations of flying,
              floating, or leaving the body, as well as other mystical experiences.
              By applying magnetic fields to the brain, he can also induce odd
              mental experiences — possibly caused by bursts of neuron firing in the
              temporal lobes. For example, he has made people feel as if two alien
              hands grabbed their shoulders and distorted their legs when he applied
              magnetic fields to their brains.

              Our modern fasicnation with other such phenomena, such as ESP,
              past-life regression, and out-of-the-body experiences, may also be the
              result of mild, undiagnosed TLE. It's a fertile field, awaiting more
              research to bring such mysteries out of the realm of the "paranormal"
              and into the fascinating labyrinth of the brain.

              Fear and Trembling

              Has TLE changed the course of civilization? LaPlante and many other
              TLE experts speculate that the mystical religious experiences of some
              of the great prophets were induced by TLE — because the historical
              writings describe classic TLE symptoms. The religious prophets most
              often thought to have had epilepsy are Mohammad, Moses, and St. Paul.
              Dostoevsky, another famous epileptic whose works are filled with
              ecstatic visions of universal love (and terrible nightmares of uncanny
              fear and radical evil), thought it was obvious that Mohammad's visions
              of God were triggered by epilepsy. "Mohammad assures us in this Koran
              that he had seen Paradise," Doestevsky notes. "He did not lie. He had
              indeed been in Paradise — during an attack of epilepsy, from which he
              suffered, as I do."

              When Mohammad first had his visions of God, he felt oppressed,
              smothered, as if his breath were being squeezed from his chest. Later
              he heard a voice calling his name, but when he turned to find the
              source of the voice, no one was there. The local Christians, Jews, and
              Arabs called him insane. When he was five years old, he told his
              foster parents, "Two men in white raiment came and threw me down and
              opened up my belly and searched inside for I don't know what." This
              description is startling similar to the alien abduction experience
              described by people with TLE.

              Note that the overriding emotion experienced by Mohammed, Moses and
              St. Paul during their religious visions was not one of rapture and joy
              but rather of fear. When Moses heard the voice of God from a burning
              bush, he hid his face and was frightened. Luke and Paul both agreed
              that Paul suffered from an unknown "illness" or "bodily weakness"
              which he called his "thorn in the flesh." Many biblical commentators
              have attributed this to either migraine headaches or epilepsy. Paul
              did once have malaria, which involves a high fever that can damage the
              brain. Other psychologists have noted that likely TLE sufferers such
              as Moses, Flaubert, Saint Paul, and Dostevesky were also famous for
              their rages.

              However, psychologist William James has argued that religious states
              are not less profound simply because they can be induced by mental
              anomalies:

              "Even more perhaps than other kinds of genius, religious leaders have
              been subject to abnormal psychical visitations. Invariably they have
              been creatures of exalted emotional sensitivity liable to obsessions
              and fixed ideas; and frequently they have fallen into trances, heard
              voices, seen visions, and presented all sorts of peculiarities which
              are ordinarily classed as pathological. Often, moreover, these
              pathological features have helped to give them their religious
              authority and influence. To plead the organic causation of a religious
              state of mind in refutation of its claim to possess superior spiritual
              value is quite illogical and arbitrary. [Because if that were the
              case], none of our thoughts and feelings, not even our scientific
              doctrines, not even our dis-beliefs, could retain any value as
              revelations of the truth, for every one of them without exception
              flows from the state of the possessor's body at the time. Saint Paul
              certainly once had an epileptoid, if not an epileptic, seizure, but
              there is not a single one of our states of mind, high or low, healthy
              or morbid, that has not some organic processes as its condition."

              More recently, several TLE nuns have provided further evidence for an
              epileptic root of many mystical religious experiences. For example,
              one former nun "apprehended" God in TLE seizures and described the
              experience:

              "Suddenly everything comes together in a moment — everything adds up,
              and you're flooded with a sense of joy, and you're just about to grasp
              it, and then you lose it and you crawl into an attack. It's easy to
              see how, in a prescientific age, an epileptic or any temporal lobe
              fringe experience like that could be thought to be God Himself."

              Even the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel had a TLE-like vision
              reminiscent of modern UFO reports — the famous, fearsome Ma'aseh
              Merkabah, the Vision of the Chariot:

              "And I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great
              cloud, and a fire enfolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and
              out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of
              the fire.... Also out of the midst thereof, came the likeness of four
              living creatures. And this was their appearance, they had the likeness
              of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings.
              And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like
              the sole of a calf's foot; and they sparkled like the color of
              burnished brass."

              The Light of the Storm

              LaPlante is just one of a growing number of writers and researchers
              delving into TLE-induced religious experiences. For example, Professor
              Michael Persinger from Ontario does research on the neurophysiology of
              religious feelings, and believes that spiritual experiences come from
              altered electrical activity in the brain. David Bear from Harvard
              Medical School believes that "a temporal lobe focus in superior
              individuals (like van Gogh, Dostoevsky, Mohammad, Saint Paul and
              Moses) may spark an extraordinary search for the entity we
              alternatively call truth or beauty." Religion, then, is sometimes our
              interpretation of altered temporolimbic electrical activity. This is
              not to demean the mystical experience, because TLE personalities have
              obviously accomplished great things, whose depth and meaning have
              radiated far beyond the electric storms of a single cranium.

              LaPlante, in her book Seized, aptly sums up the growing evidence
              linking TLE and creativity:

              "Hidden or diagnosed, admitted or unknown, the mental states that
              occur in TLE seizures are more than simply neurological symptoms. In
              people like Tennyson, Saint Paul, and van Gogh these states may have
              provided material for religion and art. People with TLE, whether or
              not they know the physiological cause of their seizures, often
              incorporate their symptoms into poems, stories and myths. And the
              disorder does more than provide the stuff of religious experience and
              creative work. TLE is associated with personality change even when
              seizures are not occurring; it amplifies the very traits that draw
              people to religion and art."

              Clifford Pickover received his Ph.D. from Yale University's Department
              of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. His most recent book is
              Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists
              and Madmen. His web site covering these and many other scientific
              topics can be found at: www.pickover.com.

              Further Reading

              Jamison, K. (1995) Manic-depressive illness and creativity. Scientific
              American, February. 272(2): 62-67.

              LaPlante, E. (1993) Seized. HarperCollins: New York.

              Mack, J. (1995) Abduction. (Revised Edition). Ballantine: New York.

              Pickover, C. (1999) Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives of
              Eccentric Scientists and Madmen. Quill: New York.

              Pickover, C. (1997) The Loom of God. Plenum: New York.

              Strieber, W. (1987) Communion. Avon: New York.
            • Stephen Berer
              Dear Mike, ... Thanx for the correction; most likely, other corrections on my diagnoses are in order, too. Haven t read Huysmans in ages... best smb
              Message 6 of 7 , Aug 8, 2006
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                Dear Mike,

                >Thanks, Stephen, for various suggestions. Huysmans doesn't strike me
                >as obsessive compulsive - that's repeating mundane rituals, no? But
                >the consequences of his solitary aesthete's lifestyle for his nerves,
                >(not very sketched in), perhaps relate very loosely to the example I
                >give below

                Thanx for the correction; most likely, other corrections on my "diagnoses"
                are in order, too. <smile>
                Haven't read Huysmans in ages...
                best
                smb
              • Tom Dolack
                I m just finishing this book now and am a bit underwhelmed, but there s some hints for substantial future research if anybody s looking for ideas, and it s a
                Message 7 of 7 , Aug 9, 2006
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                  I'm just finishing this book now and am a bit underwhelmed, but
                  there's some hints for substantial future research if anybody's
                  looking for ideas, and it's a quick read. (Although, this is the
                  second positive review I've read, so maybe it's just me.)
                  Tom

                  ________________________________
                  The Creating Brain by Nancy C. Andreasen
                  The Creating Brain
                  The Neuroscience of Genius
                  by Nancy C. Andreasen
                  Dana Press, 2005
                  Review by Nigel Leary on Jul 18th 2006
                  Volume: 10, Number: 29

                  Nancy C. Andreasen's book, The Creating Brain, is an interesting and
                  insightful hypothesis about the nature of creativity. Her style is
                  fluid and engaging, and she presents both her hypothesis and her
                  research in equally effective and accessible ways. Andreasen is, to
                  be sure, an interesting character: she started her career as a
                  professor of Renaissance literature before going on to study as a
                  neuroscientist, and she is now the Andrew H. Woods Chair of
                  Psychiatry and Director of Mental Health Clinical Research Centre at
                  the University of Iowa. This rare mixing of disciplines has left
                  Andreasen in the somewhat extraordinary position to approach the
                  notion of creativity from both a scientific perceptive (as a
                  neuroscientist) and from an inherently creative background (as a
                  literary professor). This meld not only gives Andreasen's book an
                  engaging and readable style, but motivates her project, and provides
                  her with a strong insight into both a) the creative process and b)
                  the creative psyche.

                  Andreasen's research is multifaceted, but the main goal of the
                  project is to 'drill down to the deepest level possible and attempt
                  to find the neural basis of creativity' (p. 50). However, what is
                  especially significant is Andreasen's presentation of introspective
                  accounts of the creative process prior to the introduction of her own
                  project. What this does is ground the reader firmly in the topic,
                  and gives an insight into the creative process from the perspective
                  of the deeply creative mind, examples of which include Wolfgang
                  Amadeus Mozart, Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky, Henri Poincare, Fredrich
                  Kekule and Stephen Spender. Once the topic is grounded, and the
                  reader engaged, Andreasen is careful to inform the intelligent lay
                  reader of all the relevant terminology. The journey starts with a
                  short excursion into How Does the Brain Think?, followed by A Primer
                  for Brain Anatomy, The Complexity of Brain Networks, The Human Brain
                  as a Self-organizing System and What is Human Thought?, before we
                  reach what becomes a key section on Unconscious Thought: The Edge of
                  the Mind's Precipice. It is important to stress that as engaging and
                  interesting as Andreasen's work is she is a pioneer of the field, and
                  as such much of her research is, in fact, the only research on the
                  market. What this means is that as intuitive and encouraging as any
                  of the results may be they are, at this stage, inconclusive, but as
                  long as we, the readers, bear this in mind Andreasen's research and
                  hypotheses remain highly informative. That being said, the author is
                  clear that this is new, uncharted territory, and as an 'adventurer'
                  she has decided 'to take the plunge over the precipice and to study
                  the neural basis of free association using neuroimaging technology to
                  obtain measurements of cerebral blood flow to determine which regions
                  of the brain became activated' (p. 70). But what is the relevance of
                  free association to creativity?

                  Well, free association is an instance of episodic memory -- a type of
                  autobiographical memory which recollects the information linked to a
                  person's experience – but, in this particular case, it is, according
                  to Andreasen, 'more mysterious' because it 'is clearly less
                  sequential and time-linked [and]…may be the repository of information
                  that is stored deeply and is therefore sometimes less consciously
                  accessible' (p. 71). What Andreasen's experiment reveals is that the
                  area of the brain which registers activity during free association is
                  the association cortex. This cortex is what gathers and links
                  information from various other areas in the brain, and here is the
                  interesting part, 'in potentially novel ways' (p. 71). So, the claim
                  is that the genesis of new ideas and concepts is attributable to this
                  neural process, which links information in the subject’s brain in
                  novel ways. However, what makes these discoveries fascinating in the
                  study of creativity is that i) much of this linking process occurs in
                  what we refer to as 'the unconscious mind' and ii) this capacity uses
                  the parts of the brain which are it’s 'most human and complex
                  parts' (p. 71). According to Andreasen, there is a distinction to be
                  made between ordinary creativity (creating sentences in conversation)
                  and extraordinary creativity (composing symphonies), and she connects
                  the empirical evidence back to the introspective accounts presented
                  to the reader earlier. What this link, successfully, demonstrates is
                  that the creative process in the instances of people like Mozart and
                  Tchaikovsky is extraordinary and characterized by a unique thought
                  process, which in turn must (although Andreasen is careful to say
                  presumably) be caused by a unique neural process. In essence, the
                  claim is that the type of creativity we are interested in, the type
                  which produces paintings like the Mona Lisa, is a distinct type of
                  neural activity which can be distinguished from other types of brain
                  activity. Furthermore, it appears to be something which occurs in
                  the unconscious mind, via a process of free association. As
                  Andreasen herself puts it:

                  'I would hypothesize that during the creative process the brain
                  begins by disorganizing, making links between shadowy forms of
                  objects or symbols or words or remembered experiences that have not
                  previously been linked. Out of this disorganization, self-
                  organization eventually emerges and takes over in the brain. The
                  result is a completely new and original thing: a mathematical
                  function, a symphony, or a poem…[P]ossessors of extraordinary
                  creativity are…gifted with unusual brains.' (p. 77/8).

                  Andreasen goes on to explore the apparent links between creativity
                  and some malady of the mind. Chapter four, Genius and Insanity,
                  opens with some particularly well chosen quotes, including one from
                  John Dryden in Absalom and Achitophel: Great Wits are sure to Madness
                  near ally'd: And thin Partitions do their Bounds divide (p. 79). The
                  point of the chapter is to explore whether there are actually any
                  links between mental illness and creativity. Once again Andreasen
                  draws the reader's attention to a list of names including John Nash,
                  Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway and Ludwig von
                  Beethoven. The question is are these instances of a direct link
                  between creativity and mental illness, or is the link simply
                  coincidental? Andreasen's own study reveals some solid correlative
                  evidence between artistic creativity and mood disorder, but also that
                  there is no apparent link between creativity and schizophrenia. She
                  goes to some length to discuss, rationally, why high levels of
                  creativity can lead to some sorts of mental disorder, and also points
                  out that although there is no direct correlation between the
                  occurrence of mental illness and schizophrenia, the mental or neural
                  processes where the brain becomes 'momentarily disorganized' in
                  creativity, such as free association, are remarkably similar to those
                  in 'psychotic states of mania, depression, or schizophrenia' (p. 102).

                  The fifth chapter What Creates the Creative Brain is, I think, the
                  best chapter of the book. Its use of Leonardo da Vinci and
                  Michelangelo Buonarroti as examples is masterful; as is Andreasen’s
                  account of the climate of creativity in which both artists developed
                  and nurtured their talents. This chapter also contains what is
                  perhaps the clearest exposition of Andreasen's position:

                  'Somehow an innate gift, intrinsically coded in their brains by
                  genetic influences that we do not as yet understand, was present. It
                  is manifested by cognitive and personality traits such as curiosity,
                  openness to experience, and self-confidence. These traits can be
                  further enhanced by environmental influences…because the human brain
                  is ''plastic.'' That is, it is intensively shaped throughout life by
                  interaction with the world around it.' (p. 135)

                  Although Andreasen admits that her study has only a limited
                  application to any significant nature vs. nurture debate her evidence
                  is compelling. This chapter also sees the formulation of a series
                  five necessary cultural conditions for creativity, although I must
                  admit some level of personal scepticism as to their application.
                  That being said they are certainly logical, even intuitive, but I
                  find it hard to believe that the conditions for creativity are so
                  easily exhausted.

                  Chapter six is dominated by various pieces of advice and numerous
                  activities to promote creativity, and includes sections titled Mental
                  Exercises for Adults and Tips for Teaching Tots. Again, the advice
                  appears sound, and, given the framework of Andreasen's studies and
                  findings, makes perfect sense. As compelling and convincing as
                  Andreasen's hypotheses and findings are they must be taken with a
                  pinch of salt, not because they aren’t logical or rational, but
                  simply because their empirical verification is, at present,
                  immature. The studies themselves appear valid, and offer credible
                  results, but there simply have not been enough of them to demonstrate
                  the veridical nature of the claims. That being said Andreasen
                  deserves full credit for an engaging, interesting, insightful and
                  intuitive book which is not only informative, but leaves everyone in
                  a position to nurture their own creative talents. I sincerely hope
                  to see more research in this area to fortify Andreasen's position,
                  and to verify her claims.
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