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The brain on creativity

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There has been vast amount of study around the field of human creativity. Only until the technology could catch up with itself was it able to measure how our brain works when in creative activities. New research has come out to support the special functions of the brain that spark and continue creative thinking. The results may astound you — it did me!


A UNC School of Medicine study has provided the first direct evidence that a low dose of electric current can enhance a specific brain pattern to boost creativity by an average of 7.4 percent in healthy adults, according to a common, well-validated test of creativity.

This research, published in the journal Cortex, showed that using a 10-Hertz current run through electrodes attached to the scalp enhanced the brain’s natural alpha wave oscillations — prominent rhythmic patterns that can be seen on an electroencephalogram, or EEG.

“This study is a proof-of-concept,” said senior author Flavio Frohlich, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, cell biology and physiology, biomedical engineering, and neurology. “We’ve provided the first evidence that specifically enhancing alpha oscillations is a causal trigger of a specific and complex behavior — in this case, creativity. But our goal is to use this approach to help people with neurological and psychiatric illnesses. For instance, there is strong evidence that people with depression have impaired alpha oscillations. If we could enhance these brain activity patterns, then we could potentially help many people.”

Frohlich, who is also a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, is now in collaboration with David Rubinow, MD, chair of the department of psychiatry, to use this particular kind of brain stimulation in two clinical trials for people with major depressive disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD — a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. Participant enrollment is now underway for both trials.

“The fact that we’ve managed to enhance creativity in a frequency-specific way — in a carefully-done double-blinded placebo-controlled study — doesn’t mean that we can definitely treat people with depression,” Frohlich cautioned. “But if people with depression are stuck in a thought pattern and fail to appropriately engage with reality, then we think it’s possible that enhancing alpha oscillations could be a meaningful, noninvasive, and inexpensive treatment paradigm for them — similar to how it enhanced creativity in healthy participants.”

Brain Rhythms

At the center of Frohlich’s research are neural oscillations — the naturally occurring rhythmic electrical patterns that neurons generate and repeat throughout the brain. Alpha oscillations occur within the frequency range of 8 and 12 Hertz 9 (or cycles per second). They were discovered in 1929 by Hans Berger, who invented EEG. Alpha oscillations occur most prominently when we close our eyes and shut out sensory stimuli — things we see, feel, taste, smell, and hear.

“For a long time, people thought alpha waves represented the brain idling,” Frohlich said. “But over the past 20 years we’ve developed much better insight. Our brains are not wasting energy, creating these patterns for nothing. When the brain is decoupled from the environment, it still does important things.”

When alpha oscillations are prominent, your sensory inputs might be offline as you daydream, meditate, or conjure ideas. But when something happens that requires action, your brain immediately redirects attention to what’s going on around you. You come fully online, and the alpha oscillations disappear. Other oscillations at higher frequencies, such as gamma oscillations, take over.

Knowing this, other researchers began associating alpha oscillations with creativity. Frohlich set out to find evidence. His idea was simple. If he could enhance the rhythmic patterns of alpha oscillations to improve creativity, then it might be possible to enhance alpha oscillations to help people with depression and other conditions of the central nervous system that seem to involve the same brain patterns.

For three years, his lab has used computer simulations and other experiments to hone a technique to improve alpha oscillation.

For the Cortex study, Frohlich’s team enrolled 20 healthy adults. Researchers placed electrodes on each side of each participant’s frontal scalp and a third electrode toward the back of the scalp. This way, the 10-Hertz alpha oscillation stimulation for each side of the cortex would be in unison. This is a key difference in Frohlich’s method as compared to other brain stimulation techniques.

Each participant underwent two sessions. During one session, researchers used a 10-Hertz sham stimulation for just five minutes. Participants felt a little tingle at the start of the five minutes. For the next 25 minutes, each participant continued to take the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, a comprehensive and commonly used test of creativity. In one task, each participant was shown a small fraction of an illustration — sometimes just a bent line on a piece of paper. Participants used the line to complete an illustration, and they wrote a title when they finished.

In the other session each participant underwent the same protocol, except they were stimulated at 10 Hertz for the entire 30 minutes while doing the Torrance test. The tingling sensation only occurred at the start of the stimulation, ensuring that each participant did not know which session was the control session.

Because rating creativity or scoring a test can involve subjectivity, Frohlich sent each participant’s work to the company that created the test. “We didn’t even tell the company what we were doing,” Frohlich said. “We just asked them to score the tests.”

Then Frohlich’s team compared each participant’s creativity score for each session. He found that during the 30-minute stimulation sessions, participants scored an average 7.4 percentage points higher than they did during the control sessions.

“That’s a pretty big difference when it comes to creativity,” Frohlich said. “Several participants showed incredible improvements in creativity. It was a very clear effect.”

Pattern Specific

But there was a question. What if the electrical stimulation merely caused a general electric effect on the brain, independent of the alpha oscillation? To find out, Frohlich’s team conducted the same experiments but used 40 Hertz of electrical current, which falls in the gamma frequency band typically associated with sensory processing — when the brain is computing what we see or touch or hear.

“Using 40 Hertz, we saw no effect on creativity,” Frohlich said. “The effect we saw was specific to the 10-hertz alpha oscillations. There’s no statistical trickery. You just have to look at each participant’s test to see these effects.”

Frohlich said he understood some people might want to capitalize on this sort of study to boost creativity in their everyday lives, but he cautioned against it. “We don’t know if there are long-term safety concerns,” he said. “We did a well-controlled, one-time study and found an acute effect.”

“Also, I have strong ethical concerns about cognitive enhancement for healthy adults, just as sports fans might have concerns about athletic enhancement through the use of performance-enhancing drugs.”

Instead, Frohlich is focused on treating people with depression and other mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, for which cognitive deficits during everyday life is a major problem.

“There are people that are cognitively impaired and need help, and sometimes there are no medications that help or the drugs have serious side effects,” Frohlich said. “Helping these populations of people is why we do this kind of research.”


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of North Carolina School of MedicineNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Does musical taste determine social class?

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We’ve all heard the adage of “snobs” venturing to the Opera or Symphony. We’ve also heard the stereotypes of people from the country listening to, well, country music. But, the question today is whether our social class plays into what type of music we listen to; or vise-versa?

With this conclusion it might be suggested that if you start listening to operatic music that you could rise in class. Well, at least if you GO to the Opera. The point is that musical tastes may play a bigger role in determining our social place than we might have thought. What we have found is that specific people listen to specific things. What links these individuals with these styles of music may give us insight into the psychology of their respective demographics.


 

Love the opera? Hungry for hip hop? It turns out that your musical likes and dislikes may say more about you than you think, according to UBC research.

Even in 2015, social class continues to inform our cultural attitudes and the way we listen to music, according to the study, which was recently published in the Canadian Review of Sociology.

“Breadth of taste is not linked to class. But class filters into specific likes and dislikes,” said Gerry Veenstra, study author and professor at UBC’s Department of Sociology.

The study involved nearly 1,600 telephone interviews with adults in Vancouver and Toronto, who were asked about their likes and dislikes of 21 musical genres. Veenstra himself is partial to easy listening, musical theatre and pop.

Poorer, less-educated people tended to like country, disco, easy listening, golden oldies, heavy metal and rap. Meanwhile, their wealthier and better-educated counterparts preferred genres such as classical, blues, jazz, opera, choral, pop, reggae, rock, world and musical theatre.

The research touches on a hotly debated topic in cultural sociology: whether one’s class is accompanied by specific cultural tastes, or whether “elites” are defined by a broad palette of preferences that sets them apart.

The study determines that wealth and education do not influence a person’s breadth of musical taste. However, class and other factors — such as age, gender, immigrant status and ethnicity — shape our musical tastes in interesting and complex ways.

What people don’t want to listen to also plays a key role in creating class boundaries. “What upper class people like is disliked by the lower class, and vice versa,” said Veenstra.

For example, the least-educated people in the study were over eight times more likely to dislike classical music compared to the best-educated respondents. Meanwhile, lowbrow genres such as country, easy listening and golden oldies were disliked by higher-class listeners.

Sources:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of British ColumbiaNote: Materials may be edited for content and length. http://www.sciencedaily.com 

Future Focus: Test Scores or Arts?

In a recent publication by the Detroit Free Press we see music gain appleheartfruitspotlight amongst political battles being fought over changes in education budgets across all 50 states. Music education is being swept under the carpet of the congressional isles that can’t seem to get along on the many issues that are facing our country. As our country leaders continue to fight, we see drastic changes in the way we deliver arts education to the next generation. Separate entities are taking initiative to enable programs that support the creative arts education beyond what is fiscally allotted by the government.

Keith Wunderlich, the author of the DFP article showcased how the community took important action towards furthering this mission:

Then something extraordinary happened. People in the community stepped forward and began working with New Haven Community Schools to bring the music back. They dug up old sheet music. They donated old clarinets, flutes, guitars, drum sets and more that had been gathering dust in attics, spare bedrooms and garages. In addition to musical instruments, the community gave our students their time and financial support.

We heard the same chorus again and again: These community residents, many of them products of New Haven Community Schools, kept saying how music had been such an important part of their education, how music had helped them become who they are today.

Our community came together with educators and students to help provide a solution to a challenge all public schools in Michigan face, and that was how to save a program the community wanted but could no longer afford.

Music and education in the arts is different than any other academic field and, should be approached as such. Creativity, as a whole, is difficult to score, analyze, and standardize. For this reason, we find that when communities and individuals take action in supporting education systems and institutions in the development of arts programs there is advancement amongst students in all areas of education. Music has been shown to connect both sides of the brain, allowing for the student to understand various other subject matter in a more comprehensive manner.

Wunderlich goes on to state that many of our current successful leaders have benefited from arts in their lives, stating:

Music education has been linked to so many singularly successful people that its impact cannot be ignored. Google co-founder Larry Page (high school saxophone), former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (clarinet), Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (guitar), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (piano) and so many other highly successful individuals credit their music education for giving them the courage to create, to collaborate for success, to see solutions where none may be immediately obvious.

Conclusively, our focus on test scores are important so that the future our our world is smart and well educated. Arts education is experiential; the student learns best when experiencing the application of what he has learned. This could be argued as being the best way of learning anything. Therefore, everyone can contribute to the future generations’ success by supporting experiential situations for children to enjoy different areas of art.

We all know deep down that the core subjects aren’t the end-all-be-all to a well rounded educational foundation. If we truly want well-rounded educational foundations for the next generation we must invest our time and resources into the development of independently supported mechanisms that allow access to arts experiences. Because, deep down is where art lives and, deep down we want everyone to enjoy it — most importantly our children.  


Detroit Free Press: Source

Why music education is important in public schools

We all know this — but what do we do about it?

This article is a call to action. I’m asking you to contemplate the information I present and talk to your local school district about getting more music to more children in more places.

Music education contributes largely to the overall success of the student in both; life and academia. Music engages both sides of the brain in a way that will change the life of the child forever. 

At the end of the day, what we want is what we select to focus on. Now, it’s time for us to focus on what is best for the next generation.

The choice is yours…

But, while you are contemplating, I will showcase some cold hard facts regarding the benefits of music education in schools.

Recent studies have indicated that adolescent music education produces greater observable physical development in the brain,[2] and an average of 27% higher math scores,[3] 57 points higher SAT scores[4] and a 46% increase in IQ scores.[5] In addition to these documented benefits on intelligence, music education has been shown enhance learning in all other subject areas by improving their study skills, receptiveness to instruction, social and emotional development. Students that participate in school band or orchestra also experience the lowest rate of gang activity and substance abuse. Most importantly, the cognitive and behavioral advantages of music education are shown to affect all students, regardless of their ethnicity, “at-risk” status, or socio-economic background.[6]

“We believe the skills the arts teach -creative thinking, problem-solving, risk-taking, teamwork and communications – are precisely the tools the workforce of tomorrow will need. If we don’t encourage students to master these skills through quality arts instruction today, how can we ever expect them to succeed in their highly competitive business careers tomorrow?”

-Richard Gurin, Chief Executive Officer, Binney and Smith, maker of Crayola crayons

 

Music requires study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills and as these are learnt and developed they expand the student’s abilities in other academic areas and help them become better students. – Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT: students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation. — College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.

The evidence is resounding and unavoidable. How much longer shall we stand by and allow our future to slip through our fingers?

The ball is in our court, we have the choice. We must take action today!

Will you make the choice and take the action today that will change your life and the life of our children forever?

If so, here are some action steps you can take TODAY


Action Steps


  1. Print this article.
  2. Ask for a personal “sit-down” meeting with a local educational authority.
  3. Hand deliver this article — in combination with personal research.
  4. Make it your overwhelming commitment to keep on the heels of local educational authorities until they MUST change the level of music education.

 

Live your inspiration deliberately! 

With Deep Appreciation,

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[1] Brian Foster, “Einstein and his Love of Music,” Physics World (Jan. 2005), .
[2] G. Schlaug, L. Jancke, Y. Huang and H. Steinmetz, “In vivo morphometry of interhem ispheric assymetry and connectivity in musicians,” Proceedings of the 3rd international conference for music perception and cognition (Liege, Belgium, 1994), 417-418.
[3] Amy Graziano, Matthew Peterson and Gordon Shaw, “Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training,” Neurological Research 21 (March 1999).
[4] College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. The College Entrance Examination Board, Princeton, NJ, 2001.
[5] Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Ky and Wright, “Music and Spatial Task Performance: A Causal Relationship,” University of California, Irvine, 1994.
[6] “Benefits of Music Education,” MENC: The National Association for Music Education, 2002.

Can you make perfect by practicing?

The taboo and questioning around the statement “Practice makes perfect” has been debated for centuries… Well, maybe not centuries but, at least the last decade or so. 

What do you think? Do you believe that endless amounts of practice enables performance perfection?

Different alterations of the statement have been submitted over the years. Those include:

  1. Perfect practice makes perfect.
  2. Perfect attention to the right things makes perfect.
  3. Practicing perfectly makes perfect.
  4. Your practice makes your perfect.

No matter how you phrase it, the question still remains; does practice make perfect?

A new study from Rice University, Princeton University and Michigan State University finds that practice will most definitely make you better – regardless.

“This question is the subject of a long-running debate in psychology,” said Fred Oswald, professor and chair of psychology at Rice and one of the study’s co-authors. “Why do so few people who are involved in sports such as golf, musical instruments such as the violin or careers such as law or medicine ever reach an expert level of performance?”

This is a good point!.. There are many you study yet, few that master — or — reach a level of experiential achievement.

“Deliberate practice was a strong overall predictor of success in many performance domains, and not surprisingly, people who report practicing a lot generally tend to perform at a higher level than people who practice less,” Oswald said. “However, perhaps the more important contribution of our study is that no matter how strongly practice predicted performance in our findings, there was always statistical room for other personal factors to predict learning a skill and performing successfully, including basic abilities.”

Oswald noted that significant amounts of research have already identified basic abilities as also being important to predicting performance, but some researchers tend to minimize them and consider practice as the sole determinant of performance.

The key here is in the doing day in and day out. Commitment to constant refinement and discipline towards a passion is important to the human psyche and level of fulfillment.

“Other factors matter as well, but even so, no one says that practice will ever hurt you; but be careful if you are walking tightropes,” Oswald said.

At the end of the day, what is perfection anyway? Our ideal of perfection is stale, lifeless and, unnatural. The things in life that make us happy and fulfilled are filled with natural blemishes and slight deviations from what we think of as perfect. This is what makes life spicy and fruitful. 

So, does practice make perfect? Maybe..

However, do we want perfection? Maybe not.

Live your passion deliberately!

With deep appreciation,

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Focused posts Facebook | Everything in-between @mcgregor_thomas | Me on video Youtube | Where all the magical stuff happens http://www.THOMASMCGREGOR.com