Monday, July 28, 2008

Intuition, Inspiration, the Muse--Whatever



All of us want more of those brilliant ideas that lead to interesting new projects, yes? But how to get them.

The July 28 issue of The New Yorker has in interesting article on this topic. Using brain imaging technology, scientists now think that these flashes of insight occur in an area of the right hemisphere of the brain called the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG). I'm simplifying, because before the insight, other areas of the brain try to gather data, shut out sensory input which can interfere, and search frantically for answers to the problem, and then suddenly, the insight happens, shown by a burst of electricity in the aSTG. Then somehow the brain reorders information, and we can never go back to seeing things the way we did before.

Apparently insight is more apt to occur when we are relaxed, after the necessary information has been gathered. This is why many people get their best ideas in the shower or early in the morning when they're half awake, or in my case, as I'm falling asleep.

I'm not sure how this information helps when you're trying to think of solutions except to reinforce what we know already: things like come back to the problem later, sleep on it, etc. (A glass of wine might help, or a cookie, although the scientists didn't mention that.) Fascinating though, isn't it? Now to wait for a moment of intuition...

8 comments:

Tricks said...

That's fascinating Kay, so that's why I don't create good art when I am stressed. Now, to tell the rest of the family that they mustn't cause me stress, lol. Well, we must just all chill out then. I wonder if that's why I have known so many talented but alcoholic artists? Could be. Bye for Now Tricia

jenclair said...

I love information about the brain and the way it works. We are all probably aware of the fact that we can't force our creative insights and know that we sometimes have to distance ourselves from the problem, but sometimes we keep trying. This information lets us know that it is all right (and more productive) to relax and step away. I'll step toward the glass of wine!

Rian said...

Very interesting. And I love that you put that particular picture of Einstein up. Just as Jenclair said, we can't force creativity. It comes when it comes. Often at two in the AM, but that's okay too. No wonder I'm so creative--I drink a lot of wine!

Barbara C said...

Well that explains my attraction to cookies. I'm sacrificing my figure for the sake of art (!)

Kay said...

Interesting that all of us can go along with the alcohol and food aid to creativity, isn't it? Just remember that was MY idea; those neuroscientists might not want credit for it. :)

Seriously though, Tricia's may have something about the connection between alcoholism and talent.

McIrish Annie said...

Glad you had a nice time in Moscow. I must admit it is not on my list of places to see but your photos, especially of the churches, are beautiful.

if i drink a complete bottle of wine, will I become totally inspired or just completely tipsy??

Kim said...

Did somebody say "wine?"

Learning to harness what goes on in the brain is fascinating --- doing something with the inspiration/insight... there's the rub.

Allison Ann Aller said...

My brother brought this New Yorker on his visit specifically so I could read that article!
What I really liked was the Zen meditator who became an "insight machine" after he started focusing on not focusing....
The article helped confirm to me my feeling that I start always work on a new project long before it comes into my conscious awareness, too....