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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Also at the Washington DC Art of Science Learning Conference:

TED speakers and prize-winners achieve online cult status when their short presentations become viral sensations. Dr. Charles Limb established himself as a member of TED's vaulted Hall-of-Fame when he proved to the online world that he could measure the brain activity of improvising musicians. At last week's "Art of Science of Learning" Conference at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, Dr. Limb discussed his inspiration for scanning musicians in fMRI machines and the future direction of his research.

Dr. Limb is a saxophone player and a pianist who labels himself as a music fanatic. He is affable and sprinkles his presentations with humorous asides; "I belong to a frustrated class of writers, musicians and surgeons who are trying to better understand what happens in our brains when we produce art." He exclaims, "something like music and art is a whole brain activity. It suggests that from a cognitive perspective few things activate the brain entirely as much as music."

Dr. Limb started his talk with a quick overview of the history of music-making and brain scanning. The first Neanderthal bone-flute dates back to 43,000- 80,000 years ago, which proves that the desire to make music is fundamental to all humans. "Artistic creativity is a product of the brain," he says. "At a time when early humans didn't have record players, musical scores or songs to memorize, they likely improvised." Fast-forward 50,000 years to the Johns Hopkins University lab where Dr. Limb places musicians in fMRI machines; his subjects "play fours", or exchange improvised jazz riffs, inside the fMRI brain scanners.

An fMRI machine looks like a huge sun-tan bed enclosed in a bubble and is "noisy, magnetic, spatially restricted and ergonomically challenging, not like the Village Vanguard." In order to scan musicians' brains in the fMRI machine, Dr. Limb created a digital keyboard / computer interface (powered by MIDI) that allowed the subjects to keep their heads motionless while using their arms/hands to play the instrument on their thighs. They played along with Dr. Limb, who sat in a separate control room with another keyboard. Dr. Limb and his subjects first played memorized sections, and then improvised. He measured the fluctuations in their brain activity between memorized and improvised sections.

The brain scanner detects not only the relaxation of the brain, but measures brain activity where oxyhemoglobin has its oxygen utilized, which it then converts to deoxyhemoglobin. During musical improvisation, blood flows to the pre-frontal cortex, thereby setting off triggers in the machine and visual hotspots on data screens. Dr. Limb points to increased brain activity at the hotspots, and concludes that changes in activity in these areas are linked to specific regions of neural activity. He poses several questions to help push his research forward:

- Do mechanisms that underlie musical creativity generalize to other forms of creativity?
- What is creative genius?
- What factors disrupt creativity?
- Can creative behavior be learned?

Dr. Limb's study integrates art with science, which re-emphasizes the importance of uniting both fields in the laboratory, classroom and Capitol Hill.

Christoph A. Geiseler is a social entrepreneur, filmmaker and musician from Los Angeles. As the founder and executive director of the nonprofit MIMA Music, Inc., Christoph oversees the implementation of community impact programming in the United States, Europe and South America. The brainchild of his senior politics thesis at Princeton University (A.B. 2004), MIMA uses improvisational music making as a tool to empower people, train leaders and build stronger communities. For more information about MIMA, visit:

At the Art of Science Learning Washington D.C. Conference held April 6-7, 2011, the Keynote: Susan Sclafani, "Recreating Education for our Students" is a fascinating power point presentation of skills needed by student provided by the arts. You can see the PDF version at this link

You can attend the SD Conference in June....check out the info

Art Talk: Artist and Community by Joe Nalven

Art Talk: Artist and Community - without the art critic - Part 1

Grant Kester, Chair of the Visual Arts Department at UCSD, and Francesca Polletta, Professor of Sociology at UCI, took the audience on a wild intellectual journey into participatory democracy and how this could apply to art making and its significance to communities. This was one of those Bronowski Art & Science Forums at the Neurosciences Institute that I would later muse, "Glad I was there."

Rather than recapitulate what Kester and Polletta said, I'd like to invite you to dive into the discussion that followed from Jim Bliesner's opening question - and into what Bliesner was thinking as he made the Kester-Polletta presentation real for the audience. This was a two-tiered thought-question: first, the starting point was about what participatory democracy looked like; and second, and more importantly, how this perspective would apply to art making in a community context rather than the artist-in-solitude context. The artist-in-solitude is often how we picture the artist at work; but it isn't always so.

JN: You were the first to ask a question. Seems to have gone to the heart of the conversation. How did you phrase it?

JB: My question was: Does collaboration enhance creativity or result in mediocrity?

JN: But why did you ask that question? What was your interest in the creativity/mediocrity spectrum with respect to working with others?

JB: The topic of the forum was collaboration from a political perspective and an artistic perspective. Both panelists suggested that collaboration is a good thing and gave examples. I have done collaborative work as an artist as well as a community organizer and know that with collaboration there is always, always the potential for enhanced creativity when it is done between people who are able to reduce their egos for the common discussion or the common goal. When artists and activists can get their egos out of the way and focus on solving a problem or designing a work of art they far exceed the capability of any one member of the group.

Continue to read the whole article at this link

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why some people are creative

This was taken from 4/25/11 - why some people are creative

In today's excerpt - many highly creative people behave in ways that are viewed as eccentric. Why? Researchers are finding that their creativity and their eccentricity are rooted in the same cause - a diminished ability to filter out nearly as much of the constant stream of information as the average person, and thus the need to process and organize this information in untypical ways. The term for this trait is "cognitive disinhibition":

"Many highly creative people [display] personal behavior [that] sometimes strikes others as odd. Albert Einstein picked up cigarette butts off the street to get tobacco for his pipe; Howard Hughes spent entire days on a chair in the middle of the supposedly germ-free zone of his Beverly Hills Hotel suite; the composer Robert Schumann believed that his musical compositions were dictated to him by Beethoven and other deceased luminaries from their tombs; and Charles Dickens is said to have fended off imaginary urchins with his umbrella as he walked the streets of London. ...

"In fact, creativity and eccentricity often go hand in hand, and researchers now believe that both traits may be a result of how the brain filters incoming information. Even in the business world, there is a growing appreciation of the link between creative thinking and unconventional behavior, with increased acceptance of the latter. ...

"In the past few decades psychologists and other scientists have explored the connection using empirically validated measures of both creativity and eccentricity. To measure creativity, researchers may look at an individual's record of creative achievements, his or her involvement in creative activities or ability to think creatively (for example, to come up with new uses for ordinary household items). To measure eccentricity, researchers often use scales that assess schizotypal personality. ... Schizotypal personality is a milder version of the clinical psychiatric condition called schizotypal personality disorder, which is among a cluster of personality disorders labeled 'odd or eccentric' in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. ... Not all schizotypal people have a personality disorder, however. They are often very high functioning, talented and intelligent. Many of my students at Harvard University, for example, score far above average on schizotypal scales, as well as on creativity and intelligence measures. ...

"My research suggests that these manifestations of schizotypal personality in and of themselves do not promote creativity; certain cognitive mechanisms that may underlie eccentricity could also promote creative thinking, however. In my model of how creativity and eccentricity are related, I theorize that one of these underlying mechanisms is a propensity for cognitive disinhibition. ...

"Cognitive disinhibition is the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival. We are all equipped with mental filters that hide most of the processing that goes on in our brains behind the scenes. So many signals come in through our sensory organs, for example, that if we paid attention to all of them we would be overwhelmed. Furthermore, our brains are constantly accessing imagery and memories stored in our mental files to process and decode incoming information. Thanks to cognitive filters, most of this input never reaches conscious awareness. There are individual differences in how much information we block out, however; both schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals have been shown to have reduced functioning of one of these cognitive filters, called latent inhibition (LI). Reduced LI appears to increase the amount of unfiltered stimuli reaching our conscious awareness and is associated with offbeat thoughts and hallucinations. ...

"Reduced cognitive filtering could explain the tendency of highly creative people to focus intensely on the content of their inner world at the expense of social or even self-care needs. (Beethoven, for example, had difficulty tending to his own cleanliness.) When conscious awareness is overpopulated with unusual and unfiltered stimuli, it is difficult not to focus attention on that inner universe. In 2003 my colleague Jordan Peterson and I reported [that] ... we think that the reduction in cognitive inhibition allows more material into conscious awareness that can then be reprocessed and recombined in novel and original ways, resulting in creative ideas. ...

"A brain-imaging study, done in 2010 by investigators at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, suggests the propensity for both creative insights and schizotypal experiences may result from a specific configuration of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain. Using positron-emission tomography, Örjan de Manzano, Fredrik Ullén and their colleagues examined the density of dopamine D2 receptors in the subcortical region of the thalamus in 14 subjects who were tested for divergent-thinking skills. The results indicate that thalamic D2 receptor densities are diminished in subjects with high divergent-thinking abilities, similar to patterns found in schizophrenic subjects in previous studies. The researchers believe that reduced dopamine binding in the thalamus, found in both creative and schizophrenic subjects, may decrease cognitive filtering and allow more information into conscious awareness.

"Clearly, however, not all eccentric individuals are creative. Work from our lab indicates that other cognitive factors, such as high IQ and high working memory capacity, enable some people to process and mentally manipulate extra information without being overwhelmed by it. Through a series of studies, we have, in fact, shown that a combination of lower cognitive inhibition and higher IQ is associated with higher scores on a variety of creativity measures. The shared vulnerability model suggests that at least a subgroup of highly creative individuals may share some (but not all) biological vulnerability factors with individuals who suffer from psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia. This vulnerability may allow the highly creative person access to ideas and thoughts that are inaccessible to those of us with less porous mental filters."

author:Shelley Carson
title:"The Unleashed Mind"
publisher:Scientific American Mind
date:May/June 2011

Museum Of Math

I have been proposing this idea for years - I am glad someone is going to make it happen. Check out MoMath's web page here

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Art of Science Learning: Shaping the 21st-Century Workforce

The Art of Science Learning consists of three regional conferences (Spring 2011) with follow-up activities designed to convene a "community of interest and practice" around the use of arts-based learning in science education, as a way to advance scientific literacy in the general population and strengthen STEM skill development in the current and future American workforce.

The conferences are intended to engage and bring together diverse audiences including:
• science educators working in formal and informal settings
• teaching artists and arts teachers in all disciplines
• corporate leaders and policymakers interested in the impact of STEM skill development on the quality and competitiveness of the 21st Century American workforce
• scientists, mathematicians, engineers and artists pursuing interdisciplinary arts/science integration
• researchers interested in investigating the effectiveness of arts-based approaches to science education

Each conference lasts 1.5 days and involve roughly 250 participants. Separate tracks will focus on the three key areas of educational practice, research and workforce development, and the conferences will feature interactive and arts-based plenary activities by some of the world's leading practitioners of arts-based learning, to give participants first hand experience with ways in which artistic skills, processes and experiences can foster creative thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Conference follow-ups that are part of this project will include:

• A workforce development report with actionable policy recommendations on the use of arts-based learning to foster the development of key skills required for a competitive 21st-Century STEM workforce, such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication across cultures, etc.

• A research agenda outlining strategies to document and assess the impact of arts-based learning on scientific literacy and STEM skill development, and proposing specific studies to explore the link between artistic engagement and innovation in science and technology.

• A set of arts-based STEM development resources for formal and informal science educators, including educational best practices and case studies, and databases of arts resources and arts-based learning tools.

The first Art of Science Learning conference took place in Washington on April 6-7 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Additional conferences will be held later this spring in Chicago and San Diego as follows:

May 16-17, 2011
Illinois Institute of Technology

San Diego
June 14-15
California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (CALIT2) at UCSD

This project (the conferences, their follow-ups, and the NSF grant) is being administered by the Learning Worlds Institute (, with Harvey Seifter as project director and principal investigator; Liz Dreyer, LWI's Executive Director as conference producer, and Dr. David Green as project and content development manager. The Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) has been retained for participant evaluation.

In each city local partners (universities, research centers, arts institutions, etc.) are helping in many ways, from hosting and offering logistical support, to outreach, marketing and content development.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Culture Trumps Cognition - Birthplace of Human Language, Analysis Suggests

An analysis of languages from around the world suggests that, like our genes, human speech originated -- just once -- in sub-Saharan Africa.

see the article here

Index of Creative and Innovative Education

John Eager in his Huffington Post titled Measuring Creativity in California and the Nation reports on steps to legislate creativity. It was only a matter of time!

Senator Curren Price of the California legislature wants an Advisory Committee on Creative and Innovative Education because, he says, the state schools aren't teaching kids to be creative.
Read the whole article here:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Next Era - We Are It! - Polyaesthetics

I really think that we are moving out of the postmodern era and into the polyaesthetic era - and we are on the forefront of it - I think our project should be a reflection of this new era in a ubiquitous culture affected by the new media. I just ran accross this blog recently and think it has a lot in common with what we are doing. Please check it out here
Don't you love our new logo designed by Fei as a variation on the Art Meets Fashion log?
Hope to see many of you at the meeting on Tuesday April 12.
Patricia Frischer coordinator of SDVAN

Art and Science The same only different

Cathy Breslaw sends us this link to an article in Critical Thought by Stuart Mason Drambot.


Friday, April 8, 2011

My Plug for ASCI

Here is some information about a group that I have been a member of for a few years - If you are interested in becoming a member then follow the link.

The ASCI eBulletin produced by Art & Science Collaborations, Inc., is the world's most comprehensive, hyperlinked monthly listing of exhibitions, symposia, festivals, books, and opportunities in the global art-sci-tech field. It's a benefit of ASCI Membership which is a modest $30-40/year. Here is the link

Monday, April 4, 2011

NEXT DNA of Creativity Meeting

Our next SDVAN DNA of Creativity: meeting will be held on
Tuesday April 12, 2011 from 10 am to noon

We will be discussing not only the goals that we think we can reach but also the structure of this project in more detail. We will continue to gather contacts and share resources.
Please do RSVP if you want to receive a full agenda 760.943.0148,
2487 Montgomery Avenue, Cardiff by the Sea, Ca 92007
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