He was socially aloof and even cruel to those close to him, and his writing became progressively more detached from his audience and from reality, culminating in the near-psychotic neologisms and loose associations of Finnegans Wake. Bertrand Russell, a philosopher whose work I admired, had multiple family members who suffered from schizophrenia. Einstein had a son with schizophrenia, and he himself displayed some of the social and interpersonal ineptitudes that can characterize the illness.
Based on these clues, I hypothesized that my subjects would have an increased rate of schizophrenia in family members but that they themselves would be relatively well. I also hypothesized that creativity might run in families, based on prevailing views that the tendencies toward psychosis and toward having creative and original ideas were closely linked.
I began by designing a standard interview for my subjects, covering topics such as developmental, social, family, and psychiatric history, and work habits and approach to writing. My final challenge was selecting a control group. After entertaining the possibility of choosing a homogeneous group whose work is not usually considered creative, such as lawyers, I decided that it would be best to examine a more varied group of people from a mixture of professions, such as administrators, accountants, and social workers. I matched this control group with the writers according to age and educational level.
By matching based on education, I hoped to match for IQ, which worked out well; both the test and the control groups had an average IQ of about If having a very high IQ was not what made these writers creative, then what was? As I began interviewing my subjects, I soon realized that I would not be confirming my schizophrenia hypothesis. If I had paid more attention to Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell, who both suffered from what we today call mood disorder, and less to James Joyce and Bertrand Russell, I might have foreseen this.
One after another, my writer subjects came to my office and spent three or four hours pouring out the stories of their struggles with mood disorder—mostly depression, but occasionally bipolar disorder. A full 80 percent of them had had some kind of mood disturbance at some time in their lives, compared with just 30 percent of the control group—only slightly less than an age-matched group in the general population. At first I had been surprised that nearly all the writers I approached would so eagerly agree to participate in a study with a young and unknown assistant professor—but I quickly came to understand why they were so interested in talking to a psychiatrist.
This is consistent with what some other studies have found. When the psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison looked at 47 famous writers and artists in Great Britain, she found that more than 38 percent had been treated for a mood disorder; the highest rates occurred among playwrights, and the second-highest among poets. When Joseph Schildkraut, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, studied a group of 15 abstract-expressionist painters in the midth century, he found that half of them had some form of mental illness, mostly depression or bipolar disorder; nearly half of these artists failed to live past age While my workshop study answered some questions, it raised others.
Why does creativity run in families? What is it that gets transmitted?
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- Italia Utopia Di Cambiamento (Italian Edition).
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How much is due to nature and how much to nurture? Are writers especially prone to mood disorders because writing is an inherently lonely and introspective activity? What would I find if I studied a group of scientists instead? These questions percolated in my mind in the weeks, months, and eventually years after the study. As I focused my research on the neurobiology of severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and mood disorders, studying the nature of creativity—important as the topic was and is—seemed less pressing than searching for ways to alleviate the suffering of patients stricken with these dreadful and potentially lethal brain disorders.
They know it, too: on a recent trip to London, I was proudly regaled with this information by several different taxi drivers. Using another technique, functional magnetic resonance imaging fMRI , we can watch how the brain behaves when engaged in thought. Designing neuroimaging studies, however, is exceedingly tricky. Capturing human mental processes can be like capturing quicksilver. The brain has as many neurons as there are stars in the Milky Way, each connected to other neurons by billions of spines, which contain synapses that change continuously depending on what the neurons have recently learned.
Capturing brain activity using imaging technology inevitably leads to oversimplifications, as sometimes evidenced by news reports that an investigator has found the location of something—love, guilt, decision making—in a single region of the brain. Many forms of creativity, from writing a novel to discovering the structure of DNA, require this kind of ongoing, iterative process.
With functional magnetic resonance imaging, the best we can do is capture brain activity during brief moments in time while subjects are performing some task. For instance, observing brain activity while test subjects look at photographs of their relatives can help answer the question of which parts of the brain people use when they recognize familiar faces. Creativity, of course, cannot be distilled into a single mental process, and it cannot be captured in a snapshot—nor can people produce a creative insight or thought on demand.
I spent many years thinking about how to design an imaging study that could identify the unique features of the creative brain. Some regions of the brain are highly specialized, receiving sensory information from our eyes, ears, skin, mouth, or nose, or controlling our movements. We call these regions the primary visual, auditory, sensory, and motor cortices. They collect information from the world around us and execute our actions. But we would be helpless, and effectively nonhuman, if our brains consisted only of these regions.
In fact, the most extensively developed regions in the human brain are known as association cortices. These regions help us interpret and make use of the specialized information collected by the primary visual, auditory, sensory, and motor regions. For example, as you read these words on a page or a screen, they register as black lines on a white background in your primary visual cortex. To read, your brain, through miraculously complex processes that scientists are still figuring out, needs to forward those black letters on to association-cortex regions such as the angular gyrus, so that meaning is attached to them; and then on to language-association regions in the temporal lobes, so that the words are connected not only to one another but also to their associated memories and given richer meanings.
A neuroimaging study I conducted in using positron-emission tomography, or PET, scanning turned out to be unexpectedly useful in advancing my own understanding of association cortices and their role in the creative process. My team and I compared this with another system, that of semantic memory, which is a repository of general information and is not personal or time-linked. In this study, we divided episodic memory into two subtypes.
We examined focused episodic memory by asking subjects to recall a specific event that had occurred in the past and to describe it with their eyes closed. And we examined a condition that we called random episodic silent thought, or REST : we asked subjects to lie quietly with their eyes closed, to relax, and to think about whatever came to mind. The acronym REST was intentionally ironic; we suspected that the association regions of the brain would actually be wildly active during this state.
This suspicion was based on what we had learned about free association from the psychoanalytic approach to understanding the mind. In the hands of Freud and other psychoanalysts, free association—spontaneously saying whatever comes to mind without censorship—became a window into understanding unconscious processes. Based on my interviews with the creative subjects in my workshop study, and from additional conversations with artists, I knew that such unconscious processes are an important component of creativity.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described how he composed an entire line poem about Kubla Khan while in an opiate-induced, dreamlike state, and began writing it down when he awoke; he said he then lost most of it when he got interrupted and called away on an errand—thus the finished poem he published was but a fragment of what originally came to him in his dreamlike state.
Based on all this, I surmised that observing which parts of the brain are most active during free association would give us clues about the neural basis of creativity. And what did we find?
Sure enough, the association cortices were wildly active during REST. Once I arrived at this idea, the design for the imaging studies was obvious: I needed to compare the brains of highly creative people with those of control subjects as they engaged in tasks that activated their association cortices. For years, I had been asking myself what might be special or unique about the brains of the workshop writers I had studied.
In my own version of a eureka moment, the answer finally came to me: creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way—seeing things that others cannot see. To test this capacity, I needed to study the regions of the brain that go crazy when you let your thoughts wander.
I needed to target the association cortices. I was ready to design Creativity Study II. This time around, I wanted to examine a more diverse sample of creativity, from the sciences as well as the arts. My motivations were partly selfish—I wanted the chance to discuss the creative process with people who might think and work differently, and I thought I could probably learn a lot by listening to just a few people from specific scientific fields. After all, each would be an individual jewel—a fascinating study on his or her own.
My individual jewels so far include, among others, the filmmaker George Lucas, the mathematician and Fields Medalist William Thurston, the Pulitzer Prize—winning novelist Jane Smiley, and six Nobel laureates from the fields of chemistry, physics, and physiology or medicine. Apart from stating their names, I do not have permission to reveal individual information about my subjects. And because the study is ongoing each subject can take as long as a year to recruit, making for slow progress , we do not yet have any definitive results—though we do have a good sense of the direction that things are taking.
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To participate in the study, each subject spends three days in Iowa City, since it is important to conduct the research using the same MRI scanner. The subjects and I typically get to know each other over dinner at my home and a bottle of Bordeaux from my cellar , and by prowling my acre nature retreat in an all-terrain vehicle, observing whatever wildlife happens to be wandering around. We begin the actual study with an MRI scan, during which subjects perform three different tasks, in addition to REST: word association, picture association, and pattern recognition.
Each experimental task alternates with a control task; during word association, for example, subjects are shown words on a screen and asked to either think of the first word that comes to mind the experimental task or silently repeat the word they see the control task. Speaking disrupts the scanning process, so subjects silently indicate when they have completed a task by pressing a button on a keypad. Playing word games inside a thumping, screeching hollow tube seems like a far cry from the kind of meandering, spontaneous discovery process that we tend to associate with creativity.
It is, however, as close as one can come to a proxy for that experience, apart from REST. You cannot force creativity to happen—every creative person can attest to that. But the essence of creativity is making connections and solving puzzles. As I hypothesized, the creative people have shown stronger activations in their association cortices during all four tasks than the controls have. See the images on page This pattern has held true for both the artists and the scientists, suggesting that similar brain processes may underlie a broad spectrum of creative expression.
Many creative people are polymaths, people with broad interests in many fields—a common trait among my study subjects. After the brain scans, I settle in with subjects for an in-depth interview. I begin by asking subjects about their life history—where they grew up, where they went to school, what activities they enjoyed. I ask about their parents—their education, occupation, and parenting style—and about how the family got along. We talk about how the subjects managed the challenges of growing up, any early interests and hobbies particularly those related to the creative activities they pursue as adults , dating patterns, life in college and graduate school, marriages, and child-rearing.
I ask them to describe a typical day at work and to think through how they have achieved such a high level of creativity. Two of the 13 creative subjects in my current study have lost a parent to suicide—a rate many times that of the general U. Talking with those subjects who have suffered from a mental illness themselves, I hear about how it has affected their work and how they have learned to cope.
The creative subjects and their relatives have a higher rate of mental illness than the controls and their relatives do though not as high a rate as I found in the first study , with the frequency being fairly even across the artists and the scientists. The most-common diagnoses include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety or panic disorder, and alcoholism. Interestingly, when the physician and researcher Jon L.
Leonard Heston, a former psychiatric colleague of mine at Iowa, conducted an influential study of the children of schizophrenic mothers raised from infancy by foster or adoptive parents, and found that more than 10 percent of these children developed schizophrenia, as compared with zero percent of a control group. This suggests a powerful genetic component to schizophrenia. Heston and I discussed whether some particularly creative people owe their gifts to a subclinical variant of schizophrenia that loosens their associative links sufficiently to enhance their creativity but not enough to make them mentally ill.
In this arena, nurture clearly plays a strong role. Half the subjects come from very high-achieving backgrounds, with at least one parent who has a doctoral degree. The majority grew up in an environment where learning and education were highly valued. This is how one person described his childhood:.
So why do these highly gifted people experience mental illness at a higher-than-average rate? We can only speculate about what those factors might be, but there are some clues in how these people describe themselves and their lifestyles.
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One possible contributory factor is a personality style shared by many of my creative subjects. These subjects are adventuresome and exploratory. They take risks. Particularly in science, the best work tends to occur in new frontiers. And yet they have to persist in spite of that, because they believe strongly in the value of what they do. This can lead to psychic pain, which may manifest itself as depression or anxiety, or lead people to attempt to reduce their discomfort by turning to pain relievers such as alcohol.
One interesting paradox that has emerged during conversations with subjects about their creative processes is that, though many of them suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, they associate their gifts with strong feelings of joy and excitement. It excites you all over and makes you feel as if you are all-powerful and complete. At that moment it pops into my head, it is so deeply satisfying and rewarding … My nucleus accumbens is probably going nuts when it happens.
As for how these ideas emerge, almost all of my subjects confirmed that when eureka moments occur, they tend to be precipitated by long periods of preparation and incubation, and to strike when the mind is relaxed—during that state we called REST. Many subjects mentioned lighting on ideas while showering, driving, or exercising. Some of the other most common findings my studies have suggested include:. Many creative people are autodidacts. They like to teach themselves, rather than be spoon-fed information or knowledge in standard educational settings. Many of my subjects taught themselves to read before even starting school, and many have read widely throughout their lives.
This observation has important implications for the education of creatively gifted children. The teacher did not appreciate being corrected. Many creative people are polymaths, as historic geniuses including Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were. Another polymath, one of the scientists, described his love of literature:. The arts and the sciences are seen as separate tracks, and students are encouraged to specialize in one or the other.
If we wish to nurture creative students, this may be a serious error. Creative people tend to be very persistent, even when confronted with skepticism or rejection. Asked what it takes to be a successful scientist, one replied:. Do creative people simply have more ideas, and therefore differ from average people only in a quantitative way, or are they also qualitatively different? One subject, a neuroscientist and an inventor, addressed this question in an interesting way, conceptualizing the matter in terms of kites and strings:.
Of course, having too many ideas can be dangerous. Part of what comes with seeing connections no one else sees is that not all of these connections actually exist. How could you believe that you are being recruited by aliens from outer space to save the world? So I took them seriously. Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill.
And some people, like John Nash, are both. A dangerous trend in fake news has the potential to affect the upcoming U. We have trackers for a lot of different things at the moment:.
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Some trackers require us to be a little clever however. Most games that are problematic are using one commonly used word.
- A Stranger at Death;
- Ridin the Pine: A Collection of Short Stories;
- My Country?
- 2. Evaluate or create systems.!
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In this, on top of looking for the word Thief, we added a number of other words that need to be present in order to create a positive hit. It looks a bit like this slightly simplified :. We had to recreate the tracker for Thief as follows this is a simplified version of it again :. We keep a very close eye on the behaviour of the trackers, trying to keep them as relevant as possible and avoiding false positive at the same time. Currently and for the foreseeable future , the Media Monitor is only providing quantitative data.
That in itself has already been very helpful to us. We see trends for what are the news the most likely to be picked up, it allows to get some benchmark on the different countries we are working on we do PR across all of Europe, not an easy task. Please let me know if you have questions, I will use them to update this post and clarify the notions presented here. However, we are now parsing even more websites, and […]. Comment down below and lets us know whether or not it makes sense to you. If this the first time for you, please fee free to have a look at the methodology used, and read the blog posts for and […].
It is particularly worth mentioning this year […].
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It is very unusual to have such a perfect score, especially considering the tool has it own flaws, and it would tend more towards missing mentions rather than finding false positives. VR as a topic […]. To make the coverage of the only […]. As a reminder, I am using our media monitoring tool for this. For more info on the tracking method please read this entry. Please also note that this selection excludes several jokes — such as Hearthstones fake MMO […]. This is incredibly difficult, and to illustrate this, I went and looked at the Bloodstained campaign in our media monitor. All the data below is based on one year of media tracking from the July […].
The trackers We currently have more than individual trackers also referred to as alerts sometimes. Quality versus Quantity Currently and for the foreseeable future , the Media Monitor is only providing quantitative data. June 17, at pm. Does Sony's absence mean game over for E3? June 22, at am.
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