courage

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.Anaïs Nin

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Intelligence, creativity and brain function

Do you have to be intelligent to be creative? Can you learn to be more creative? In this episode, we speak with neuropsychologist Rex E. Jung, PhD, who studies intelligence, creativity and brain function. He discusses why – even if it sounds counterintuitive – intelligence and creativity may not have all that much in common.

Transcript of interview with Audrey and Rex Jung from the APA website.

Audrey Hamilton: Do you have to be intelligent to be creative? Can you really learn to be more creative? In this episode, we speak with one neuropsychologist who studies intelligence, creativity and brain function. He talks about why – even if it sounds counterintuitive – intelligence and creativity may not have all that much in common. I’m Audrey Hamilton and this is “Speaking of Psychology.”

Rex Jung is an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico and a practicing clinical neuropsychologist in Albuquerque. He studies both brain disease and what the brain does well – a field of research known as positive neuroscience. His research is designed to relate behavioral measures, including intelligence, personality and creativity to brain function and structure. He has published research articles across a wide-range of topics including traumatic brain injury, lupus, schizophrenia, intelligence and creativity. Welcome, Dr. Jung.creative-art-brain-300x300

Rex Jung: Thank you, Audrey.  

Audrey Hamilton: Could you first of all explain neuroimaging and tell our listeners how it helps researchers understand how people think and act? 

Rex Jung: Sure. So, neuroimaging is the tool that we use to measure the brain and there’s lots of different neuroimaging techniques. I use three main neuroimaging techniques – the first that I learned in graduate school was magnetic resonance microscopy, which sounds kind of complicated. But, it is a technique that basically looks at the chemicals in your brain. It’s in a standard MRI machine like you would go to get your knee scanned. But, using some sophisticated techniques you can look at certain chemicals in the brain. Some of those chemicals are very involved in important neuronal processes. And we’ve correlated those with behavior. 

A different technique is called diffusion tensor imaging, which allows us to look at water movement in the brain. And this is important because there’s lots of tubes going through your brain like the wires that connect up your computer to the Internet. And these tubes, called axons, are connecting up different processing modules of your brain and those have to be healthy. So, we can look at the health of those axons, those myelinated axons, the fatty sheath like the insulation that surrounds those tubes. 

The third technique that we use is just structural magnetic resonance imaging and that allows us to look at the processing modules of the brain – the cortical thickness – the computers that are on the surface of the brain and how much or little of that you have on the surface of the brain. Those are the three main techniques that I use. There’s functional imaging, fMRI, that most people have heard of where you’re looking a blood flow, as well. Those are ways that we measure brain structure and function and this gives us the ability to do scientific measures that then we can correlate to behavioral measures in psychology.  

Audrey Hamilton: Does being highly creative mean you’re also more intelligent? 

Rex Jung: Not necessarily. There’s a controversy about this in the psychological literature and some people have found correlations between creativity and intelligence. They’re usually pretty low, this association. And some people make a lot of that, this low association. But usually, because this association between creativity and intelligence is low, it means that you don’t necessarily have to be intelligent to be creative. So, I spent over a decade studying intelligence. It’s one of the reasons I started studying creativity because it seemed like something distinctly different and interesting than intelligence, which I have studied. I work with very highly intelligent people in academia and scientists and not all of them are creative. Why is that? If they do go together I would be working with all of the creative people in my city in Albuquerque, but that wasn’t the case so creativity seemed to be something different. 

Audrey Hamilton: Can a person learn to become more creative or simply gain intelligence? 

Rex Jung: There are some tools and techniques that can help people to be more creative. We’re starting to learn more about creativity and it’s one of the things that I’m excited about in terms of creativity is that there might be ways to increase your creative capacity. 

Intelligence unfortunately seems to be much more under tight genetic control. The genetic correlates of intelligence are high, like .75. So, if you have twins – they’re going to be identical twins – their correlation of their intelligence with one another is going to be very, very high. So that implies that the genetic involvement of that capacity is under much more tight control than the environment would be. 

With creativity, we don’t have that information and I’m hopeful that you can modulate or modify creative cognition much more than intelligence. There are studies out there that have shown increases in intelligence scores of two, maybe three points on a particular measure, which are not particularly high. But those are also controversial. Some have been replicated. Some haven’t been replicated. And we really don’t see that in terms of intelligence. With creativity, there’s a pitched effort to try to increase creativity scores on some of these measures and we’re seeing some good initial results and I’m very hopeful about that.

Audrey Hamilton: How does the way a person’s brain works and is structured influence how creative or intelligent he or she is?

Rex Jung: The research that we’ve done shows that the brain organization of intelligence and creativity are quite different. So, when you think about those measures that I talked about, those neuroimaging measures, the brain of someone who is intelligent – think of bigger, better, stronger, faster – all the measures are pointing to higher integrity of the brain of someone who has high intelligence. So, the cortical mantle is thicker, the white matter, the wires are more myelinated, the water can travel faster and in a coherent direction, you have more of these certain chemicals that I was talking about. 

crAudrey Hamilton: It’s beefed up.  

Rex Jung: It’s beefed up, yes. So you can have a better organized brain. 

With creativity, the story was different. In different regions of the brain, we were seeing weaker connections, thinner cortex and different levels of these same biochemicals. So, it was really clear from these studies that intelligence and creativity were different because we were seeing different pictures in the measures we were taking of the brain. But I tend to look at creativity and intelligence as two different kinds of reasoning. That creativity is kind of reasoning without all of the information present. So, call it abductive reasoning. But, you have hypothesis testing about how the world could work without all of the information present. So, you have to use abstraction and metaphor and stuff like that about this might look like this or this might be this way. 

With intelligence, you’re using deductive reasoning, where it’s rule-based reasoning where a equals b and that’s the way it goes. You have a rule for how this relationship works. So, creativity and intelligence are probably different types of reasoning. Both are very adaptive, but they’re just different for different types of problems that you have to solve out in the world. 

Audrey Hamilton: Is real creativity rare? How about genius? 

Rex Jung: So, creativity is common and genius is a lot more rare than we would believe. The term genius gets thrown around a lot. But, I think genius is rare because that combination of brain organization where you have high fidelity, beefed up brain in certain regions and then kind of down regulated brain in other regions is really going to be kind of rare where that is present in the same brain. So, to have that back and forth between intelligence and creativity, the ability to do both of those reasoning processes well, where you can do first approximations, hypothesis testing, abstraction and then create a rule, a novel and useful rule out of nothing before is rare and that is true genius. 

Audrey Hamilton: Well great. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Jung. It’s been very, very interesting. 

Rex Jung: Great. Thank you, Audrey. 

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UC-The Science and Art of Psychotherapy: Insider’s Guide

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neuroscience & conflict resolution

For many of us, the flood of tribal hate and violence in the news can lead to a feeling of inevitability, that we human beings are inherently at the throats of those unlike us, and that it will be forever so. But for those in the conflict resolution field, there is a quietly growing effort to find hope in a new area: neuroscience.

Some who work with ethnic, racial and religious conflict are pairing with neuroscientists to understand how small advancements in brain research can help explain how we experience emotions like prejudice and disgust and fear. It will be a while before researchers are able to devise many specific strategies for using that knowledge of how the brain works in the peace-building process. But simply teaching people that there is a neurological basis for prejudice has the potential to help them view the deep-seated roots of their conflicts more objectively, says Timothy Phillips, co-founder of the conflict resolution organization Beyond Conflict.

“There is something deeply powerful about knowing it’s not just about culture, race, ethnicity – that all those things sit on an operating system called the human brain, and that that is universal,” says Phillips. “Contrary to social and political science that says humans are rational, we are deeply emotional beings. What drives our behavior is deeply emotionally based but we don’t even have access to what drives us.”

Read the full article HERE.

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difference / differences

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee. Marian Wright Edelman

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Eating your veggies and fruits linked to mental health

A new study published in the BMJ Open suggests eating five a day is linked to better mental well-being.

Woman-holding-fruits
Eating your “5 a day” increases changes of higher mental well-being, the researchers say.

A previous study suggested that consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables a day is the optimum amount for lowering the risk of death from any cause, which contradicts another study that suggested we should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day.

The researchers from this latest study, led by Dr. Saverio Stranges of the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK, used data from the Health Survey for England, which included nearly 14,000 adults over the age of 16.

This survey collected detailed information on the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as their health-related behaviors, demographics and socio-economic characteristics.

In addition, the team assessed the participants’ mental well-being using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, putting the top 15% of participants in the “high mental well-being” group, the bottom 15% in the low group, and those between 16-84% in the middle group.

‘The higher the veg and fruit intake, the lower the chance of low well-being’

Overall, the researchers found that high and low mental well-being were typically associated with the participants’ fruit and vegetable intake.

In detail, 35.5% of participants with high mental well-being ate five or more portions of fruits and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who consumed less than one portion.

Additionally, 31.4% of the individuals from the high mental well-being group ate three to four fruit and veg portions per day, and 28.4% ate one to two.

“The data suggest that [the] higher an individual’s fruit and vegetable intake, the lower the chance of their having low mental well-being,” says Dr. Stranges.

The researchers also considered other health-related behaviors – such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – and found that only smoking and fruit and vegetable intake were consistently associated with mental well-being.

Dr. Stranges explains:

“Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental well-being. These novel findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake may play a potential role as a driver, not just of physical, but also of mental well-being in the general population.”

Alcohol intake and obesity were associated with low, but not high mental well-being, the researchers add.

Enhancing well-being while preventing cancer

According to the team, high mental well-being is more than simply the absence of symptoms or illness – it is the condition of feeling good and functioning well. They add that optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships are also part of this mode of being.

According to co-author Prof. Sarah Stewart-Brown, mental illness “is hugely costly to both the individual and society, and mental well-being underpins many physical diseases, unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities in health.”

She says enabling people to maintain good well-being is important from a research perspective.

“Our findings add to the mounting evidence that fruit and vegetable intake could be one such factor and mean that people are likely to enhance their mental well-being at the same time as preventing heart disease and cancer,” she adds.

When asked about whether the study accounted for physical activity, Dr. Stranges told Medical News Today that one of the limitations of the study was that such data “was not available in the Health Survey for England,” leaving room for further study

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Are You Happy Now?

Happy: feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc. : showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. : pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.

 

 

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