Image Photo courtesy of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA.
Sometimes—as in the case of neuroscience—scientists and researchers seem to be saying several contradictory things at once. Yes, opposing claims can both be true, given different context and levels of description. But which is it, Neuroscientists? Do we have “neuroplasticity”—the ability to change our brains, and therefore our behavior? Or are we “hard-wired” to be a certain way by innate structures.
The debate long predates the field of neuroscience. It figured prominently in the work, for example, of John Locke and other early modern theorists of cognition—which is why Locke is best known as the theorist of tabula rasa. In “Some Thoughts Concerning Education,” Locke mostly denies that we are able to change much at all in adulthood.
Personality, he reasoned, is determined not by biology, but in the “cradle” by “little, almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies.” Such imprints “have very important and lasting consequences.” Sorry, parents. Not only did your kid get wait-listed for that elite preschool, but their future will also be determined by millions of sights and sounds that happened around them before they could walk.
It’s an extreme, and unscientific, contention, fascinating as it may be from a cultural standpoint. Now we have psychedelic-looking brain scans popping up in our news feeds all the time, promising to reveal the true origins of consciousness and personality. But the conclusions drawn from such research are tentative and often highly contested.
So what does science say about the eternally mysterious act of artistic creation? The abilities of artists have long seemed to us godlike, drawn from supernatural sources, or channeled from other dimensions. Many neuroscientists, you may not be surprised to hear, believe that such abilities reside in the brain. Moreover, some think that artists’ brains are superior to those of mediocre ability.
“A música é capaz de despertar memórias, emoções e sentimentos profundos. Ela penetra tão profundamente em nosso sistema nervoso que é, comumente, a última coisa que perdemos. Quando músicos de jazz tocam de improviso (uma característica frequente desse tipo de música), seus cérebros “desligam” áreas ligadas à autocensura e à inibição e ativam aquelas que deixam fluir a autoexpressão. Ou seja, ao desligarem a inibição, eles davam espaço à criatividade: através da revelação posso conhecer a mim mesmo e ao outro. ”
In celebration of Ramadan, brush up on the beautiful and complex geometry of Islamic design –and learn how to draw a few of these patterns yourself!
La Villa des Orangers Marrakech, Morocco