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    The Neuroscience Of Creativity And Insight—The Good, The Bad, & The Absolutely Ridiculous
    By Andrea Kuszewski | February 16th 2011 04:54 PM | 71 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Andrea

    Andrea is a Behavior Therapist and Consultant for children on the autism spectrum, residing in the state of FL; her background is in cognitive

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    —A Critical Look at Recent Studies of Creativity and Insight—
    "All this fires in my soul, and—provided I am not disturbed—my subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized and defined, and in the whole, though it be long, stands almost complete and finished in my mind, so that I can survey it, like a fine picture or a beautiful statue, at a glance..." —Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    This is how Mozart described his subjective cognitive experience at his time of greatest productivity. We may recognize it as the "Ah ha!" moment—the point at which everything rapidly, and often suddenly, comes together to form a whole, complete idea, sometimes out of nowhere. This is also known as the moment of insight—the pinnacle of the creative process.

    Anyone who's experienced this moment knows how addictive that feeling can be. For me, it's like being high on ideas—scrambling to dictate, transcribe, and extract as much information as you can from this mental epiphany before it escapes into the haze of unrealized theories. When it hits you—and you are in that moment—it's heaven.

    And so, like most wonderful things, science wants to replicate it artificially. In fact,  some scientists even claim they found a way to induce creative insight—with a jolt of electricity to the brain.

    Chi and Snyder, two researchers whose claim to fame is a "thinking cap" meant to induce both creativity and savant-like skills at will (like magic!), recently published a paper, "Facilitate Insight by Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation". They looked at the Anterior Temporal Lobe (ATL), an area in the brain responsible for recognizing and interpreting visual patterns and representations. They claim that by stimulating the right ATL, while simultaneously inhibiting the left ATL (suppressing activity), they can induce that "Ah ha!" moment, helping a person to solve a problem using insight.

    They state:
    "This prediction is based on evidence that the right ATL is an area associated with insight and novel meaning and that inhibition of the left ATL is associated with emergence of certain cognitive skills and a less top-down or hypothesis driven cognitive style. More generally, it is consistent with evidence that the left hemisphere is involved in the maintenance of existing hypotheses and representations, while the right hemisphere is associated with novelty and with updating hypotheses and representations."
    Basically, they are saying if you activate the side that is associated with novel ideas (R), and at the same time suppress the side associated with maintaining existing hypotheses (L), you can free your brain from a fixed mental set and see alternate solutions.  In other words, you will be able to see the correct answer with this burst of insight from the right side of your brain, that had been blocked by the left side. 

    So—plausible? Possible?

    Hell, I'm just gonna come out and say it—you can't zap your brain and magically turn yourself into the next Leonardo, no matter how much electricity you use.  Not even if you use fairy dust (although it does add a little flair).

    and now for a little fairy dust...
    Creativity isn't magic, people. It's science.
    (But I won't lie—I wish it was magic. I always wanted superpowers.)


    I'll also mention that Ed Yong, at Not Exactly Rocket Science, did a terrific job breaking down and summarizing the entire Chi-Snyder paper, so I won't repeat all of that here. I encourage you to go there to get more details about the study's methods, materials, and so forth (I weighed in over there, also). Here I'll just brief you on the highlights.

    Experiment:

    Chi and Snyder did their experiment with three groups—each group was given the same types of tasks to complete, but each group got shocked and inhibited in a different area of the ATL.

    Group 1: sham (fake) stimulation
    Group 2: stimulate L, inhibit R
    Group 3: inhibit L, stimulate R

    Results:

    Indeed, they found that the group with their left side inhibited and their right side stimulated, were able to solve the problems significantly better than the other two groups. So—a success, right? This "thinking cap" doohickey shocking the ATL facilitates insight? Makes you more creative???

    Eh... Not so fast. While this type of whacky, unexpected research is fun to read about, and makes for good jokes, it's very important that the data be examined and evaluated for what it really means, not what makes for a better press release. All kidding aside, I take creativity research very seriously, so let it be known that I don't support this type of study. I will explain why.

    First of all, "insight" is not the same as "creativity". Insight is a moment of clarity, the second a solution hits you. Creativity is a process, a way of thinking and perceiving. More on this later.

     Here's an excerpt from Ed's post, where I state my interpretation of Chi and Snyder's results:
    "For creative thinking to take place, there needs to be recruitment from both sides, not just the right. Stimulation of the right side (and inhibiting the left) is sort of like a kick in the pants, so your brain stops being so inflexible. That's really all it does, and it's temporary. No lasting creative effects... They aren't actually measuring creativity. They are artificially inducing a "clear your head and start over" type of strategy. But just because you are open to new ideas, doesn't mean you'll actually get one."
    Knocking your brain free from a fixed pattern is helpful, but it doesn't give you an amazing, creative solution to a problem, it merely stops preventing one from coming in, like opening a door. But you need to generate the info coming in the door yourself, it isn't provided for you. For people who are trying to solve a problem and get "stuck"—I can see how this might be useful.  But then again, so is stepping away from your work for a minute to clear your head—to break free from that fixed mental set—the good old fashioned way. Added bonus: No risk of brain damage from electric shock!

    Another interesting fact: While most other studies of creativity and insight involve looking at the Prefrontal Cortex, or PFC (thought to be crucial for creative thinking, working memory, and problem-solving), or the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, ACC (involved in error detection and determining the relevance of stimuli) they decided to zap the ATL instead. I knew that damage to the ATL caused diminished function of the PFC, but I was still unsure what the reasoning was behind this particular choice.

    And then I saw the reason. To be honest, I'm surprised that no one has brought this up yet. But this might be one of those unique circumstances where being cross-disciplinary, both a researcher and an artist, made something appear more obvious to me than to the typical neuro researcher that would have initially read this paper. I kept digging through the reference list, and the more I checked citations, the more aggravated I got.

    Why?

    Their entire hypothesis was built on a flimsy, faulty premise, with bad data and inaccurately interpreted results from a prior study.  And the thing is—if these guys had the first clue about what creativity actually is, how it's recognized, assessed, and how to rate it quantitatively, they might not have made such a stupid assumption in their hypothesis. Yet they claim to be experts on creativity and research of this type, and they go on their merry way, cranking out BS research with grandiose claims, and the public eats it up, none the wiser.

    Here's what I discovered:

    One of the main studies that they cited in their intro—the results of which being the inspiration for their hypothesis, and why they decided to stimulate the ATL in particular—turns out to be a big pile of poo. They framed their entire study around the faulty poo-premise from this one paper, and justified every move they made through that poo filter. And what is this poo-premise, you ask?

    From the introduction:
    "Presumably, it would be beneficial in certain situations if we could temporarily induce a state of mind that is less top-down, in other words, less influenced by metal templates or preconceptions. Interestingly, a clue for achieving this comes from people with brain dysfunctions.

    For example, Miller, et al. found that artistic talent, due to a different way of perceiving the world, can sometimes emerge spontaneously in those with dominant (usually left) anterior temporal lobe dementia. They argued that damage to this area may interrupt certain inhibitory mechanisms in the left hemisphere and disinhibit contralateral areas in the right. As an oversimplified caricature, brain dysfunctions, induced or caused by inhibiting and disinhibiting certain neural networks, may make our cognitive style less hypothesis driven, thereby enabling access to a level of perception normally hidden from conscious awareness.

    This raises a provocative possibility: Can we facilitate insight problem solving in healthy people by temporarily inhibiting or disinhibiting certain areas of the brain?"
    You see, these guys at the Centre for the Mind are hell-bent on creating Superhumans. Not that there is anything wrong with that per se, but when you start ignoring real data and only see relevance in data that supports your already existing belief, that's problematic, and it isn't science. They read the words, "artistic skill emerging spontaneously..." and they jumped all over it, not even bothering to use their supposedly extensive neuroscience knowledge to tell them it was something else altogether.

    Because artistic skill is just being disinhibited, right?! Yeah—so is scizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

    First of all, "artistic skill" (and certainly not creativity) doesn't just "emerge" following brain damage. Behavior can change, yes. But this type of brain dementia does not give you superior artistic talent; that's just not reality.

    When I first read this, I smelled poo. My instincts told me it was poo, only I had no data to back it up. Until yesterday. 

    After doing some searching, thinking that someone else must have questioned and tested this hypothesis about frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) resulting in artistic skill and increased creativity, I found this, published this past September: "Poor Creativity in Frontotemporal Dementia: A Window Into the Neural Bases of the Creative Mind" by de Souza (and party of eleven other researchers).

    To save some time, I will sum up why this is a crucial paper:

    • This study was done in order to verify if true creativity did indeed emerge in FTLD patients, as mentioned in the Miller study and consequently used in the Chi-Snyder study to justify their course of research. They looked at multiple possibilities of causality, and designed the study accordingly.
    •  While the Chi-Snyder study looked at one dimension to assess for artistic skill gains (the match-stick test), the de Souza study used a full-scale Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT)—which is the best measure we have to this day of assessing multiple dimensions of creativity. The full battery is extensive, and it takes a while to administer. They weren't messing around.
    • Without listing all the versions of subjects they had built in to this study to ensure accurate attribution of cause (you can read about it if you wish), you can believe me when I tell you they were very thorough in their rigorous testing measures, methods, and controlling for as many variables as they could reasonably think of.
    • And the best part: They accurately rated the creative quality of the behavior exhibited by the subjects in question. Using actual rating scales, not self-report, or experimenter subjectivity.
    And the results of this complex and thorough analysis?

    They concluded that the effect noted by Miller and validated by Chi and Snyder (artistic skill gained after this FTLD brain injury), was in fact, completely bogus. The subjects with FTLD didn't actually gain "artistic skill and creativity" at all. In fact, this brain injury correlated with diminished creativity.

    How was this "new skill" explained?

    Well, the patients with FTLD did indeed experience disinhibition, but the resulting behavior wasn't creative or "artistic", it was perseverative and weird. The zap to the ATL removed inhibition to allow for a new thought pattern in the match stick test, but the new thought pattern could easily just be strange, not creative, in a different task. The match-stick test by Chi and Snyder was one measure of skill, but there is no telling if that transfers to a useful skill of another kind in another type of task.

    In order to be considered creative, an idea or action must be novel, useful, unexpected, and valuable, given the task at hand. The only thing the subjects in Miller's study did was start creating visual media. There was no saying it was good, clever, useful, or had any purpose other than a method of transferring energy from body to artistic medium.

    What they might want to consider is this: Patients with FTLD suffer from loss of language, social skills, and communication skills. The one area they did have intact was their vision. If you couldn't talk, couldn't understand language properly, had no social skills—what would you do with your time? I might start painting for the first time, too. That might be the only method at their disposal for expending energy in an appropriate way (such as in a nursing facility). However, just because one throws paint on a canvas, doesn't mean he's skilled, and certainly doesn't automatically qualify you as a "creative artist". Weird, strange, or even novel and surprising doesn't equate with successful creativity. The fruits of those efforts must also have some kind of intended meaningful, useful, purpose—either in a symbolic or practical way.

    I guess what bothers me the most about the Chi-Snyder study as well as the Miller study, is that these ill-conceived, poorly executed, non-scientific, inaccurate tests of "creativity" only serve to hurt the validity of this research area in general.

    Arne Dietrich, creativity researcher, wrote a fantastic review article very recently summarizing the problems and challenges facing researchers of creativity today. By far, the darkest problem I see, is the tainting of our field by the impurities of pseudoscience—which too often gets overlooked by scientists and lumped into our research, polluting our data. An ignorant researcher could conduct an irresponsible study, draw some invalid conclusions, then get cited in a future study, accepted as valid, and the cycle continues.

    At some point the waters are too murky to decipher the valid research from the "thinking caps"— citations buried under citations, blindly accepted as truth. The only way to change this, in order to move the field forward, is for scientists to take a stand against this type of thing as soon as it is brought to light. Stop the cycle of grandiosity and PR. And as much fun as the idea of magical thinking caps may be, just say no to the hype—and say yes to science.


    _____________________________________________________

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0016655 Facilitate Insight By Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation. Chi and Snyder, 2011

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20868703 Poor creativity in frontotemporal dementia: a window into the neural bases of the creative mind. By de Souza, LC et al. Neuropsychologia, September 2010

    http://www.harford.de/arne/articles/PB%20Reprint.pdf A Review of EEG, ERP, and Neuroimaging Studies of Creativity and Insight. by Arne Dietrich Psychological Bulletin, 2010

    Image Source, CC Courtesy of Chelsea McNamara

    Comments

    This. "By far, the darkest problem I see, is the tainting of our field by the impurities of pseudoscience—which too often gets overlooked by scientists and lumped into our research, polluting our data." Not just for creativity research, but for many sub-disciplines within psychological science more generally.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Seriously! Everyone loves mocking the crazy psychology studies, which then makes them more "popular" even if they aren't valid. It just goes downhill from there—we're always on the defensive after someone says or publishes something ridiculous.

    And how do these things get past peer review?! I have less and less faith that it is a system that works.

    STOP THE INSANITY!!!

    And thanks for the comment, Jason. :)

    And this goes out to all the idiots who make psych look bad:
    blue-green
    Hot Showers! O water hot is a noble thing …
    Showering is a full body break and stimulator that works. Does anyone contest that? I work a lot a home, so a shower break is easy to do and not an expensive perk. With sexual harassment suits to worry about, I don’t think it will catch on in the general workplace, yet unplanned showers would jump start the right mixes of creativity and rationality to make industries hum. There are the water conservation issues … which I think that can be worked out with a little recycling and creativity (water for the lawns and plants). Think of all of the faucet makers and pipe fitters we could put to work if convenient showers were installed all over the place. If I ran the zoo, people would have access to showers …. whenever ...
    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but anyone that's ever been around a bunch of stoners in college would recognize the faulty notion about "creativity".  Similarly, I'm sure many people have had the experience of waking from sleep with a "solution" to some problem they dreamed about, only to realize on waking (and some thought) that the whole thing was a dream-induced illusion (both of the problem as well as the solution).

    This is an area that many "artists" have argued about regarding how well drugs or any mind-altered state is with respect to making someone more creative than they might otherwise be.  I think it's a safe bet to say that while one can certainly modify their perspective and develop alternative points of view, these are insufficient to achieve anything resembling "creativity".  This doesn't mean they should be dismissed out of hand, but like so many things involving the brain, we have far more quaint ideas than we have factual data.
    Mundus vult decipi
    «This is an area that many artists have argued about regarding how ell drug or any mind-altered state is with respect to making someone more creative than they might otherwise be ». But is it possible that artists who used drugs to be more creative could see, along years, their creativities become sterile ?

    Is it easier for most of humans to give credit to a crutch than accept the success for his own works and talents ?

    'our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. it is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us... as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.'...
    It may be a theological remark, yet it interestingly attempts to answer that question. I may not agree entirely with it, but i do enjoy statements such as this for their ability to contrast how the multiplicity of minds finds different creative solutions to solve those indeterminable questions we all face. I'd like to see a study exploring if creativity is linked to how we individually explain the mysteries of existence and similar cognitively inherent phenomena.

    Wayne Turner
    It almost seems like Chi and Snyder, and maybe Miller, are influenced by the same forces that see a fascination among the general public with anything suggesting that technology can add new or extra functionality to the human mind or body . Transhumanism is not well-defined in the mind of the general population, and many people wouldn't even recognize the word. But it's main thrust, that people can improve upon the human mind or body with the application of advances in technological or biological science, seems imprinted upon the general populace. Anything that smacks of quick-fix or instant gratification in pursuit of this increased function, whether it is strength, intelligence or creativity, is seized upon by "popularizers" of science and presented to the public without critical thought or analysis, and probably with no more thought than to increase readership or gain advertising share. Chi and Snyder (and Miller) would presumably not be among this crowd, but their inability to correctly interpret their own findings makes them seem to be among the worst of the sort. Worse, as practicing scientists, they aren't aware of the damage they do to their own field, by allowing weak research and science to be hyped, then refuted. In a political atmosphere where all science is now under attack, this amounts to shooting oneself in the foot, if not the kneecap.
    vongehr
    What the hell? Which article did you read? Printed out the wrong paper or something? Why do you criticize a paper that almost nowhere even mentions "creativity" by going on and on jabbering about that term? They made an experiment about insight into a specific task being facilitated. They did find what is well known for probably thousands of years to anybody experienced in using drugs, namely that temporarily changing the balance for example between censure and free association can especially if one is new to a task greatly facilitate in-sight (and creativity by the way). I applaud this experiment and recommend the authors on also repeatedly stressing "temporary" and "cognitive enhancement".
    you can't zap your brain and magically turn yourself into the next Leonardo ....
    are hell-bent on creating Superhumans.
    Who the hell ever claimed any of this? You are out of your mind. Is this what you call fair, first accusing of what they never did and then judging guilty of "BS"? Your article here is the only BS!

    What really is your beef with this work? I myself often criticize pseudo-science going through peer-review, and I welcome more people doing so, but please with objectivity and a sympathetic reading first! If there is something wrong with a paper, you need to tell us in scientific terms and not just ranting on based on little more than some 'artist's' fear to be loosing ground to alternatives to her conservative-elitist 'creativity' or whatever your problem really is. Your article is just through and through revealing that something that the article touches on threatens something in your usual self-serving elitism that reveals again and again that your knowledge is all books and little real life experience of anything outside the endorsed mainstream. Failure!
    Andrea Kuszewski
    There goes another kitten, Sascha. I hope you feel good about that one.

    Why don't you try reading my entire article before you say something so idiotic. I listed exactly the problem(s) I had with the study, in some pretty detailed paragraphs with linked papers and I gave examples. I can only lay so much out for you .

    And you are way obsessed with drug enhancements; maybe you should lay off them a bit—they seem to be making you a little paranoid.

    vongehr
    I read your entire article several times in order to find any hidden worth and I also (which you maybe should do, too) read the article you criticize in such a way. Your
    I listed exactly the problem(s) I had with the study, in some pretty paragraphs with linked papers and examples.
    refers to your shooting a straw man that you first erected. The article is not about and does not claim what you are misinterpreting and misrepresenting it to be about or claim.
    rholley
    It’s a long time since I saw Star Wars.  Is that an actual clip from the film, or is it “made over” in some way?
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Andrea Kuszewski
    That's a clip from the film that someone edited in a loop. :)
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Where did I get "creativity" from? Read. The. Title. Of. My. Article. Please.

    (note the plural)

    (note the multiple links, one of which is a review of creativity and insight research over the last decade, which you would know, if you read my article all the way through to the end where I mentioned that)

    (and I mean "read" not "skim and look for data that matches my already formed opinion")

    You are part of the problem, Sascha. I'm going to bed now. Thanks for dropping by!
    vongehr
    You mainly attack the Chi-Snyder paper and if any of the 'creativity' and Leonardo related charges against that paper were supposed to go only against something you mention only much later, then you seriously need to rethink the structuring and writing of your post. I will abstain from going word for word, but there are many places like
    I guess what bothers me the most about the Chi-Snyder study as well as the Miller study, is that these ill-conceived, poorly executed, non-scientific, inaccurate tests of "creativity" only serve to hurt the validity of this research area in general.
    jtwitten
    Dear Sascha,

    Why do you hate the mentally ill?
    You are out of your mind (contextually insulting)

    The mentally ill can be very creative.

    And so much anger. Do you need a hug? We all need hugs.

    Love,
    Josh


    vongehr
    1) "Are you out of your mind?" is hardly a slur against the mentally ill.
    2) Where is the anger and/or insult in my comment even reaching half the level of what is written in the post? Would you like to be the author of that interesting study and be treated like that? For example "Stop the cycle of grandiosity and PR" after they did claim absolutely nothing grandiosity indicating whatsoever?!? Why is anything against Andrea bad tempered anger while she can insult at will, almost calling me drug addicted without knowing nothing about me, all this kind of crap?
    3) Thanks for offering hugs Josh, but no, I have my wife for that sort of thing and I get plenty of hugs.
    jtwitten
    You may not be aware, but the phrase "out of your mind" is synonymous with "crazy", which is a colloquial expression for "mentally ill". You use this phrase to criticize the author implying, per typical use, that being mentally ill is negative and grounds for dismissing a person's opinion.

    Perhaps you are not angry, but you sound angry. We humans are lousy at self-perception. Perhaps if everyone is telling you that you sound angry, you should consider that you do actually sound angry. Kind of like I was not the first to perceive that I was balding. Now, I know, most people are idiots and the wisdom of crowds is worthless, but the scientific method demands that one at least consider the hypothesis.

    Which is all a long-winded way of saying that, Sascha, your point is lost in your rhetoric.
    Hank
    When Josh is saying the level of insult is over the top, I take notice.  

    I'll also take a hug.  
    jtwitten
    Hug.

    I'm not so much saying that the level of insult is over the top, but that the invective is obscuring the salient points of Sascha's arguments - in much the same way that Steve loses all coherence when discussing Richard Dawkins.
    Hank
    It's certainly rare that any comments center around whether or not a woo study is as woo as someone says it is, when it was clearly woo.   I think the field is generally under attack so jumping on someone who is trying to make it more accountable to its own people is less than constructive.   But maybe it's just a style thing.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Who's jumping on who? Or should I say woo's jumping on woo? Sascha didn't seem exceptionally angry to me, that's just his normal, no nonsense, rather ruthless and critical style. Personally, I didn't see anything even vaguely creative in the matchstick puzzle, it just looked mind numbingly boring to me. I have a new hypothesis, maybe  the electric stimulation just woke up the subjects in the experiment when they had to repeat the puzzle for the umpteenth time and stimulating one side of the brain wakes people up better than stimulating them on the other side of the brain? Maybe the experiment just proves that that's where the human wake up switch or center resides?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I have a new hypothesis, maybe  the electric stimulation just woke up the subjects in the experiment when they had to repeat the puzzle for the umpteenth time and stimulating one side of the brain wakes people up better than stimulating them on the other side of the brain? Maybe the experiment just proves that that's where the human wake up switch or center resides?

    Yes, Helen, that's actually what I said here:

    Stimulation of the right side (and inhibiting the left) is sort of like a kick in the pants, so your brain stops being so inflexible. That's really all it does, and it's temporary. No lasting creative effects... They aren't actually measuring creativity. They are artificially inducing a "clear your head and start over" type of strategy.
    But Sascha was too busy being "anti-anything-Andrea-posts" to really notice that.

    And his "style" is "douche".

    And in fact, I said to go to Ed's post for more information, and the same points were made there. My point here was not to do a break down of the entire paper (other people did; that's why I provided links to those pages); my purpose was to point out specific problems I had with not only that paper, but their work in general (in fact, you can't even get to the main page for the "Centre for the Mind" anymore!) and the problems faced by the field of creativity research, of which they add to tremendously.

    Sascha would have been a douche no matter what I posted, so maybe my next article (if I write one) will be "Blah Blah Blah" and see if he launches into a litany on that as well.
    vongehr
    Hiding behind Ed then, are we. You are doing it again and again. The paper you mainly criticize does not talk about creativity but you keep going on charging them with this and you are even successful (see Helen, who actually swallowed it). What the hell is going on here. I have never said the study is super-good-science (for all I know it may be all fake like so much), but what I say big time is that your criticism against it is a totally out of proportion straw man killing.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    No one was "hiding behind" anyone; I reviewed the paper and discussed it with Ed before he wrote his article, so by linking you there, I didn't need to regurgitate the same points already made and discussed. This left me more time to discuss the other points not already brought to light.
    vongehr
    Hank, please, just read the study and count how often they use the word "creativity", then read the post again. Yes, maybe it is woo, maybe it is total fake, but her post as it is written here is not about that. Her post charges the authors with claiming stuff they never claimed and it is very insulting to the authors (charging grandiosity, not knowing what creativity is, pseudo-science, BS (= Bullshit I suppose)...)
    "if these guys had the first clue about what creativity actually is,"
    Now how the hell is it that she gets away with insulting but I cannot point to it without being charged with being insulting??? What the hell is going on here? Is Andrea somehow untouchable?
    Hank
    No one is untouchable, I can't count how many times I have been called an idiot, I think we all have.    By 'style' I mean maybe you just don't like her approach to things, not that you can't say anything you want.    

    But, really, a guy who wrote post on how the World Trade Center was a big American phallus charging anyone else with being too tangential in an article is kind of funny, right?  

    I generally think we avoid the stigma that other networks have, of being cultural and political clones who are insular "me too" writers of each other because they only pick people who vote and think the way they want, because we can speak frankly.     When we hold the first Science 2.0 conference, though, it would be nice if you didn't get stabbed by any other writers, right?
    vongehr
    I still believe that one day you will come around to be able to read that WTC article as what it is: A straight science article, about science (phallus symbols, anthropology, psychology) and supporting, no demanding science education. Not a single insult anywhere in that article.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Did you bother to check out the authors and where they work, and what their comprehensive research goals are?

    (Interestingly, their website for the Centre for the Mind has been down for days)

    You see, I've read A LOT of their papers, and I know what they were trying to accomplish with this experiment. And incidentally, many neuroscientists agree with me.

    Also, if you look at the quote I pulled from their intro, they said that the research result that gave them the idea to try this experiment was from creativity/artistic ability spontaneously emerging after a specific brain injury, and they wanted to try and replicate that. The paper was by Miller, and that result from Miller was found to be a bogus interpretation of that phenomenon, as was painstakingly tested and reported by de Souza&team. I actually checked their citations and the validity of the studies they cited and formed their hypothesis from. That's how this all came about.

    My angst is that people like Snyder at the Centre for the Mind, are trying to build a portfolio of papers on creating superhumans, and each of their publications contains citations of studies which are total crap. If you read their papers, look at the kind of research they do, and find it valid, then I think you are a terrible scientist. 
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Andrea, I'm not sure that these Australian scientists are making such grandiose claims, I think their studies are interesting but not necessarily claiming to be about creativity, after all in your link above it says :-
    All in all, it’s an interesting study especially because it produced such a large improvement. But even Chi and Snyder admit that the results are difficult to interpret. That thinking cap is still a long way off.
    And in their abstract they claim :-
    We found hemispheric differences in that a stimulation montage involving the opposite polarities did not facilitate performance. Our findings are consistent with the theory that inhibition to the left ATL can lead to a cognitive style that is less influenced by mental templates and that the right ATL may be associated with insight or novel meaning. Further studies including neurophysiological imaging are needed to elucidate the specific mechanisms leading to the enhancement.
    I was interested to notice that Daniel Dennet was a medal recipient from their Centre for the Mind It is also possible that their website is down lately because of the freak weather, cyclones, fires and floodings that we have recently been experiencing here in Australia.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    vongehr
    Did you bother to check out
    If the readers should have checked that first, maybe you should have presented whatever you are now trying to present
    You see, I've read A LOT ... And incidentally, many neuroscientists agree with me.
    Well in that case, I must be all wrong then. (Ouch!)

    they said that the research result that gave them the idea to try this experiment was from
    I get plenty of good ideas of how to make things better from crappy examples. Nothing wrong with that.

    each of their publications contains citations of studies which are total crap.
    So does about every second paper I read and basically all of my papers because that is the only way to get published these days! Wanna fight against this with me. Good! Have not seen much support from you though when I wrote about shit like this. Again, I applaud the very end of your post, but the rest is no good.

    If you read their papers, look at the kind of research they do, and find it valid, then I think you are a terrible scientist.
    I find about 90% of all the papers I read not valid, so the chance of me finding that paper especially valid are slim. I have not read their other papers, but I read your blog post, went to read that one paper that you try to mostly destroy, and saw that that paper at least did not claim what you claim it claims, which is the very point by which you mainly try to destroy it.
    vongehr
    "out of your mind" is synonymous with "crazy", which is a colloquial expression for "mentally ill".
    Josh, you prove here that you are indeed out of your mind today, but you are not mentally ill (as far as I can tell).
    jtwitten
    But, if I'm like this everyday, that kind of blurs the line, doesn't it? Perhaps we shall just have wait until the new DSM arrives to settle on a diagnosis.

    To actually be on topic, one should note that the PR and spin on this particular article is not limited to the published text of the research article, but must also take into account any press statements made by the researchers. As we too often see, the claims in press releases/public statements on research of all kinds are not always supported by the work. The question is not just "is the study rigorous", but "are the claims being made in all venues supported by evidence".

    I'm not saying who's right or wrong, but the main thrust of your analysis is focused specifically on the article itself, which is a bit tunnel vision-y.

    But, I do worry about you, Sascha. Reading such a lengthy article that irritates you so multiple times cannot be good for your blood pressure. Its also a little odd.

    vongehr
    Giving an article that I want to destroy with a comment a second chance before going ahead and upsetting people is not odd, it is exactly what Andrea and also you at times maybe should do.
    jtwitten
    I'd suggest my strategy. I space out my re-readings in order that the frustration does not overwhelm me (remember that blood pressure) and I do not respond in the heat of the moment.

    I might also suggest that coming from the place "I want to destroy with a comment" does not advertise the mindset of someone looking for productive, intellectual dialogue.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    You know, Sascha, you wondered why other blogging networks didn't want you to write there. It's because the bloggers there have a say in who writes for them—take a look at your comments on my last three posts, and maybe that will give you a clue why.

    We have to deal with enough trolls on the internet; we shouldn't have to worry about them in our own neighborhood, too. Great community spirit.

    And you wonder why you don't "feel welcome" in the science blogging community. Are you really that clueless?
    vongehr
    I have no intention to join any pseudo scientific establishment. And I am not sure why you grasp for straws like that maybe I take drugs or that there was a single small blogging network that refused me because they were afraid of that I cannot blog from China and because they had too many already at the time while all others that I ever asked (e.g. IEET) welcomed me. Is it that you start feeling I shake your house of cards too much? Here is what you need to do: Write your posts so that they are not just pleasing to some in-crowd, write them so that they actually have value, and I will be with you on one side.
    (See, you need to stop projecting your own state of mind on me. I am not out to be accepted and "feel welcome" by an established community, I am out to do real shit on the next level. I am dope, not mainstream trifle that can be sipped leisurely by the new third culture wannabe upper class)
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Also, I'm an Affiliate Scholar at IEET, and have been for a while.

    And I don't have a "house of cards"... in fact, I laughed out loud when I read that. I don't live in places with walls, Sascha. It's not my way. I prefer to exist in the wild. Although, given your personality, I am not surprised in the least that you fail to realize that.
    vongehr
    Also, I'm an Affiliate Scholar at IEET
    Yes, and so? Why would I not know this or care?
    I prefer to exist in the wild.
    Yes, you are so wild. And the great thing about you is, you are established, totally mainstream, and yet so wild on top of it, like, like, like a TED audience member, like, like, like totally awesome i-pad dudes.
    And you told me also already that you read a lot and that others agree with you. Really, these arguments really make your point. Andrea, without sarcasm, if you know some psychology, you by now know that such arguments do not reach me at all, so if you know psychology, you write your comments not to discuss but only to please those who you think are always on your side and will come to support you. This kind of attitude is exactly the damn problem with most of you "science bloggers". Why is it really that you blog? Take a good look into the mirror.

    Take a good look into the mirror.

    Indeed. And what do *you* see Von Quixote? A failed frustrated scientist? A small angry boy with an ego too heavy to carry? Angry with mainstream science because they have spit you out? Poor little boy.

    Andrea, don't waste your time on this trol.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Thanks, Rick. :)
    all this aside ...

    science has more to learn from mystics, than mystics have from science, about the nature of the mind.

    jtwitten
    Speaking of which, can we get science to work on why humans find meaningless platitudes so compelling.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I volunteer to head that study. :)
    blue-green
    “A lune is he who will not sing O! Water Hot is a noble thing.” And now, a few words on creativity from the Oxford English Dictionary (Tolkien worked on some of the words beginning with W). Part of the intention of the OED is to document the creation of new word, meanings and phrasings. I think Shakespeare is the most cited for doing so. “And the gods consulted a second time how to create beings that should adore them. “ (from the year 1862). The imagination . . . becomes suspicious of its offspring, and doubts whether it has created or adopted. (1775). Below is a curious use of the word “insight”: [The room] must have been stripped of all 'insight', as our forefathers used to call hangings, carpets, and furniture. (1896).
    I have seen certain electro-therapies that are currently in study actually work but more so for people who have mental disabilities that needs an alternative to medication to function. As for this article that Andrea talks about, the "Facilitate Insight By Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation. Chi and Snyder, 2011", that I just read; I see many, many flaws in it. There is a lot to consideration esp. when it does come to "insight" and "creative" thought. One of them which Andrea brings up is the lesions on the left = more creativity/ insight than usual in people. If that is true, then what about people who are whole brained? Where does their creativity and insight come from, since they are equally vessel led especially the ones who are in the higher than average intellect? Do they have lesions on both sides and they change off? hahaha!
    And that is just one small basic question out of multitudes. There's so many major factual factors to consider that it's understandable for a person of science to go off on a rant. The article even annoyed me b/c of how many current facts and research they overlook it makes it seem like a bunch of pre B.A grad amateurs.
    (Noobs of social media, rants are ok and very acceptable in Blogs)
    On a final note, even though I agree that the Chi and Snyder research is very flawed and should be looked at as a big "fail" in science, I do give them points for trying to explore the possibilities.

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not entirely sure what is being criticized here.  The Chi-Snyder paper mentions neither "artistic skill" nor "creativity", the entire focus being on what they call "insight".  While Dietrich indicates that insight is a subset of creativity, I don't see how that translates into the Chi-Snyder paper being about creativity.
    A third domain has also been invoked to help uncover the mechanisms underlying creative thinking: insight. Insight events are rightfully a subfield of creativity because the first step toward a finished creative product is, more often than not, a creative insight. Insight tasks are more narrowly defined than those of the other two domains, and they help reveal the full measure of how complex, varied, and multistep the neural mechanisms of creativity must be.
    http://www.harford.de/arne/articles/PB%20Reprint.pdf
    In fact, it seems that Dietrich's objection is ultimately based on the fact that it is a somewhat obvious conclusion and doesn't provide any information that could be more broadly applied.
    This effect depends mostly on the type of insight problem one uses. For verbal tasks, as was the case here, it makes sense that inhibition to the left does the trick. But that can’t be generalized, at all, to insight as a whole.
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/02/02/can-electrical-jolts-to-the-brain-produce-eureka-moments/
    While the Chi-Snyder paper may be utter nonsense, I don't believe the argument has been made regarding what was specifically wrong with it, since much of the criticism focuses on assumptions and terminology that wasn't in the paper. 
    They concluded that the effect noted by Miller and validated by Chi and Snyder (artistic skill gained after this FTLD brain injury), was in fact, completely bogus.
    I'm sorry, but I haven't found any paper that references Chi-Snyder validating the artistic skill gain. 

    As I said, I can certainly appreciate that much of what Snyder claims seems to be a reach, and his background in Physics, doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling regarding his qualifications for mind research, but it would still be helpful to know what specifically is being challenged here, and whether the study itself is bogus, or simply trivial.
    Mundus vult decipi
    vongehr
    That is exactly what I want to know, too! I guess we have to figure out for ourselves what actually is wrong with the study, as Andrea does not seem to answer to science questions. There must be something that the guys who wrote the paper once did to Andrea, maybe rejecting her paper and she found out about it somehow - happens all the time. It is sad that science is all about such childish stuff.
    If you go to Ed's article, the one Andrea hides behind, it is actually much less critical of that particular paper. The most critical are just Andreas off topic sniplets and I do not understand why Ed put them into the article, as they do not add any arguments at all, just ranting. But that is something to do with You-suck-me-then-I suck-You in the pop-science-bloggy scene.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Stop bringing all your middle-school insecurities into this, Sascha—I'm already bored with you.

    Other people who asked more politely and specifically, got their questions answered.

    (see the bottom of the comment thread)
    Andrea Kuszewski
    This. This, right here. READ IT.

    http://homelandsecuritynewswire.com/aussie-thinking-cap-makes-brain-waves

    Scientists in Australia say they are encouraged by initial results of a revolutionary “thinking cap” that aims to promote creativity by passing low levels of electricity through the brain.
    Also:

    Allan Snyder, director of the University of Sydney’s Center for the Mind, said the device worked by suppressing the left side of the brain, associated with knowledge, and stimulating the right side, linked to creativity.

    “You wouldn’t use this to study or to help your memory,” Snyder told AFP. “You would use this if you wanted to look at a problem anew.

    “If you wanted to look at the world, just briefly, with a child’s view, if you wanted to look outside the box.”

    He said goal was to suppress mental templates gathered through life experiences to help users see problems and situations as they really appear, rather than through the prism of earlier knowledge.

    Snyder added that the work was inspired by accident victims who experienced a sudden surge in creativity after damaging the left side of their brains.

    The work he was referring to in that last sentence, was the study by Miller, the one I've been talking about, the one whose results were shown to be misinterpreted as creativity.

    Suck it, Sascha.



    vongehr
    What is your point? That you should have written your article differently? Or that you just cannot accept clear results if they do not fit into your preconceived notions? So he is talking smack about left-side right-side simplifications, edged on by the journalists, just like your pop-pseudoscience-bloggy friends simplify way too much all the time and you hardly ever criticize any of that if your friends do it. I look at the paper that your blog article mostly criticizes for getting creativity wrong, and it turns out not to be about creativity! It reproduces an effect that is well known to everybody into cognitive enhancement, and it does so without need for ingestion of psychoactive substances. I think this is a valuable study and the authors discuss and question the implications in the paper more critically (because on topic) than your off topic rant.
    You want to discuss the wider picture instead? Fine: If you are not even aware of that the mechanisms that the 'thinking-cap' crudely taps into are exploited for many years in different ways already (including by use of that prototype cap), you have no role in studies on cognitive enhancement and different types of 'creativity'. This is the problem with people who are all about joining the mainstream and cheer-leading and fitting in and being welcomed by others and fighting against whoever is outside the in-crowd and who are actually only 'doing science' for a job. You are holding up scientific progress. The paper you are ridiculing is not astrology or homeopathy, it is a valid paper about an interesting, real effect that I personally have experimented with and know for sure exists and I am glad I have read that study and I will likely refer to it in the future. Your post ridiculing that study in the way it was done by you is below the belt and not fit for a platform about science.
    And this is the last thing I write here and it is the last time I look at anything you write. Not wasting my time on who really does not care about science as anything else but the 'third culture' fashion accessoire.
    rholley
    I know that Sascha has spent time (not done time, I presume!) in the USA, but perhaps his cavalier use of American slang has acted like an anti-bumping granule added to an already superheated liquid.

    Perhaps the most effective way to cool things down would be to bring in some Muselwein and for all parties to drink themselves under the table.

    Please note that I am NOT referring to Moselwein, or using the Lëtzebuergesch term for the same.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    rholley
    Have some comments (not mine) been deleted from this article?
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I thought there were more comments, but I don't know if any were deleted?? If one got deleted, any comment that was linked to it (in a reply) was also wiped. I, however, didn't delete any myself, so I don't know what happened.
    Hank
    The log does not show any deletions.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    There was one flagged, but I re-published it. It might have affected the other comments in that thread, but it appears fine now.
    rholley
    I found the comment again, using a specific search word that I had used before.  So, wonder en is gheen wonder – the mystery is no mystery.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Johannes Koelman
    "The log does not show any deletions." Hmmm... by now it definitely does.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    What the heck happened to all of the comments? There were 72 comments yesterday, and now there are 55. I did not delete any, so I want to know what happened, since this is my blog.
    Johannes Koelman
    I suspect someone has deleted his/her own comment, thereby also deleting all follow-up postings. But not sure... 17 (or more) comments gone is a lot.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Even if one deleted comment took out all the subsequent replies, there must have been several deleted to lose 17 or 18 comments. That's plain censorship  that I never agreed to.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well I didn't delete any comments. The thread in which we discuss autism and spectrum disorders, BS, poo and glass houses and Johannes suggests that I am being 'motherly' seems to have disappeared.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Andrea Kuszewski
    So if you didn't and I didn't, that narrows the options a bit. Only so many people could have deleted them. There were 72 comments yesterday, and today when I checked, there were only 55.
    Hank
    Neither did I.  We have a backup so we'll restore them ASAP but we'll also figure out if this was a spam filter gone amok or someone deleted a comment.  Akismet is the very large and famous third party service we use for spam detection but we had an issue with them flagging some articles as spam recently.  We'll know soon.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I mean, if someone really did want their comment deleted, that's fine, but 18 comments is a lot.
    Hank
    It's not like just anyone can do it and it is obviously good manners to just unpublish a comment, which leaves the replies intact.   So I am betting on (a) pilot error or (b) akismet went insane.   But we'll find out.  First we'll put them back.

    I had an entire article deleted because of akismet recently and Barry Leiba had two before we figured it out but it is likely a deletion error in this case.  
    Aitch
    This thread seems to have been derailed a bit by silly [childish] argument....?

    Andrea

    I agree about the insight/Aha moments, I have them often
    I don't think the Chi-Snyder example will work on me, though....as a Left-Hander, I find my brain functions differently to the 'normal' right/left temporal model....and drugs don't really affect your insight, but do provide momentary aberrations to usual thought patterns, though meditation does allow insight to become part of one's usual pattern of being....I say being as opposed to thinking, as so many on this forum seem to think it's all about how we think, rather than be....there is, IMHO, a huge difference
    Insight becomes part of one's being, not one's thinking.....that's just ego-foolery, which many [no names, but you may spot them] seem to enjoy

    Aitch
    Andrea Kuszewski
    FYI...

    If I find out people have been moderating my blog and censoring comments without my knowledge, there will be hell to pay.
    The research is interesting because it includes people with brain dammages, but for healthy individuals :

    «Sientists at the University of Luebeck in Germany devised a simple numerical problem to test the ability of participants to reconize a new way of solving the problem. The interesting rsult was not just that sleep was important... but it was more than twice effective to "sleep on the problem" (Richard Florida)».

    miert ne:)

    When I was born back in 1956, I was so excited and didn't say a word for two years.

    Fluid and crystallized intelligence.