One section of chapter 3 speaks of work around creating virtual lesions on the brain and monitoring their impact on the individual’s performance. I was very intrigued when reading this section, because I can speak to the effect of real lesions in, and on, my brain.
My personal interest is grounded in the fact that I am a person who lives with Multiple Sclerosis. This disease is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. In M.S., gradual destruction of myelin occurs in the brain and/or spinal cord. As you can see on my MRI, the “white, light bulb-like” areas are lesions, areas of demyelination, within my brain.
Labile affect is most commonly observed after brain injury, but is also observed in people that have a disease of neural degeneration. Up to 50% of M.S. patients will encounter this labile affect. This fact is interesting to me as it relates to Chapter 3. If people are overactive emotionally, or cannot contain these emotions, how will this play off of their ability to be creative.
Ronco’s work has demonstrated that both cognition and emotion have definite roles in the creative process. Again, both nature and nurture are equally important. In regard to my M.S. friends, and even John Sharon from V. S. Ramachandran’s video (Secrets of the Mind), the hyperactive nature of the emotions can certainly shape an individual’s reality. Their reality is something other, thus creativity is stymied.
On the other hand, a lack of emotions can also be a detriment to the creative process. Ronco describes folks that suffer from alexithemia. Simply put, this is the inability to have feelings around words. A person suffering from alexithemia cannot adequately describe their feelings to other people. These people will not get excited, or emotionally moved, under situations that otherwise would warrant emotion. Granted, alexithemia is not only the lack of emotion, but a cognitive problem putting words to feelings or emotion.
An individual that is too emotional will have a hard time being creative. In the case of Mr. Sharon, a minuscule grain of sand was truly important and meaningful. To my M.S. friends dealing with labile affect, conversation around a menial topic can turn into quite a drama. One can only imagine a C.P.S. session involving these people. A warm-up asking for ways to improve the bathtub could very well turn into a counseling session for these people. After all, why would the bathtub need anything else, it’s nice the way it is. Why tamper with such a beautiful and useful thing?
There is no doubt that specific parts of the brain have deliberate purpose or function as it relates to creativity. Tools such as EEG, MRI, PET, and cerebral blood flow have been able to identify areas of the brain that become active while performing certain tasks. However, these tools, or measures, are also substantiating the fact that there is not a “creative seat” within the brain. The correct mix of physical brain function and a dash of the emotional realm is the ideal creativity recipe!
-by Gene Pohancsek