31 March 2010

Brain Wiring Speed: Intelligence vs Creativity

The brain wiring map above was created by Paul Thompson of UCLA from several sets of healthy twins between ages 20 and 30. Thompson had already correlated intelligence with higher speed in brain wiring.

Now a scientist at U. of New Mexico at Albuquerque is claiming that slower connections between parts of the pre-frontal cortex and the thalamus seem to correlate with higher levels of creativity.
Jung suggests that slower communication between some areas may actually make people more creative. "This might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty, and more creativity," he says....the result also strengthens the link between creativity and mental illness.

One of the triggers for Jung's study was the finding that when white matter begins to break down in people with dementia, they often become more creative.

The results are surprising, given that high white-matter integrity is normally considered a good thing, says Paul Thompson at the University of California in Los Angeles. He acknowledges that speedy information transfer may not be vital for creative thought. "Sheer mental speed might be good for playing chess or doing a Rubik's cube, but you don't necessarily think of writing novels or creating art as being something that requires sheer mental speed," he says. _NewScientist

This is premature speculation on very early findings, of course. But as all of the functions of the brain are studied in real time, and correlated with each other AND correlated with what is going on in the real world, we may begin to get some good clues as to what is happening and why.

Creativity without intelligence is the problem behind popular culture: television, music, cinema, gossip, "news" etc. But intelligence without creativity can be just as bad -- leading to dead end paths such as post-modernist philosophy and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming doom. Getting stuck in a rut (intelligence without creativity) is as bad as frantically spinning one's wheels (creativity without intelligence).

Besides creativity and intelligence, one also needs grit, character, executive function. In addition, the wisdom of experience and perspective is vital to knowing where to direct one's energies for the best result.

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