Beauty and brain seldom meet the press

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There is seldom much justice in du Maurier's novels: murderers remain at .. Rebecca's conventionally heroic beauty, brains and breeding' ( )—to with paint, the sort of girl you expect to meet in those sort of places' ( 98). .. about Women in Novels, New York: Columbia University Press. We hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press. . a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world .. Martin Luther King; The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in .. men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom. “I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to Meet the nine richest people in the world. Read the original article on.

Given adaptive evolutionary processes, it is reasonable to assume that all of these have become interwoven into the underlying brain mechanisms of creativity in humans. That is, there is a deep survival motivation to communicate through art when the communicative channel of language fails following brain damage discussed in subsequent subsections.

In such neurological cases, the turning to art is itself innovative; the produced art, however, is not necessarily creative. Changing the status quo practices through innovation is not limited to humans. The classic example is that of blue tit birds observed to steal milk from foil sealed milk bottles by punching through with their beaks Fisher and Hinde, ; Hinde and Fisher, In only a few birds restricted to a small geographical radius near Southampton, England, lapped up the cream in this way but within a few decades tens of thousands of tits throughout Britain were observed.

Whether or not the initial motivation for the tits was fueled by curiosity, sheer necessity starvationor patient observation of human behavior is difficult to disentangle. In Japan, on the island of Koshima, researchers observed a monkey spontaneously rinsing sand off of her sweet potato in the river before eating it, something that was viewed and adopted by the rest of her group Kawamura, ; Kawai, The same monkey later innovated a method for washing sand off of wheat grains by first dumping them in water and then scooping them all clean from the surface.

Many more innovations in animals have been described Reader and Laland, ; van Schaik et al. Compared to humans, however, innovations by animals are by far fewer Laland and Reader, Nevertheless, some species have been observed anecdotally to be creative and tested experimentally Reader and Laland, ; Laland and Reader, ; the rate of innovations is particularly high in birds and non-human primates Lefebvre, Pigeons tested in the laboratory and in the field innovated by solving a food-reaching problem and effectively spread the new knowledge to other pigeons Bouchard et al.

In the non-human primates category, chimpanzees and orangutans are the most innovative, and among birds, it is ravens and crows Corvus ; among those, New Caledonian crows are considered to be exceptionally creative Lefebvre, Although our evolutionary pasts have diverged tens of millions years ago, avians are part of our biological inheritance.

With regards to non-human primates, to whom we are closer genetically than to avians, field observations documented numerous instances in the context of deception rather than in innovative technological skills Goodall, ; Byrne and Whiten, This should not be surprising given development of social interaction, interdependence, and tight hierarchy in primate groups where survival depends heavily on cunning and flexibility Byrne and Whiten, ; Byrne, ; Byrne and Bates, Against this background, creativity in humans can be viewed as an extension of the fundamental biological survival functions of cunning and deception.

However, not all non-human primates demonstrate the ability to innovate Byrne and Bates, A good example is that of rhesus monkeys: Eating the flesh of coconuts is a preferred food by rhesus monkeys living in the scientific refuge island of Cayo Santiago, off of Puerto Rico. However, as Marc Hauser notes Hauser,in the 60 years that these monkeys have been observed, despite watching coconuts fall off of trees naturally, directly into man-made trash fires, where the hard shell bursts open and the inside flesh becomes available for eating, no monkey has purposefully thrown a coconut into the fires.

Doing so would have introduced an innovative way to optimize access to their preferred food, the coconut flesh. Large brain size strongly correlates with innovations in birds, particularly with brain regions known as the hyperstriatum and neostriatum, while in non-human primates the regions involve the isocortex and the striatum Lefebvre et al.

These human associations areas have grown in size several folds in the human brain compared to other mammals and other primates in the course of adaptive evolution van Essen et al. Meta-analytic studies in animals have found that deviations from typical behavior that enhance survival are associated with larger brains Lefebvre et al. Innovation in animals is strongly related to tool use, learning, and abilities dealing with seasonal changes. Some have argued that brain size evolution in birds is linked to regions controlling behavior rather than by environmental changes Wyles et al.

The significance of large brain size is the amount of information it can store, the availability of axonal connectivity to access concepts, and to cognitively manipulate them in cortical regions. Animals capable of innovations are driven by biological needs to survive, and the same needs could have been passed on to humans and are now entwined with other human-unique creativity capacities.

Structural and functional brain comparisons to animals shine light on some brain areas in humans that might explain our high creativity rate. Specifically, the cortical association areas and their equivalents in innovative birds are probably important.

Comparing the human brain to that of monkeys with fMRI revealed several corresponding structural and functional networks, but with two that are unique to humans Mantini et al.

Using MRI for brain structural and parcellation analyses, investigators van Essen et al. Such asymmetries are not found in other mammals, and could be playing a functional role in human creativity. Observations of Brain-Damage in Visual Artists Neurological cases of visual artists who had practiced their craft professionally prior to the brain damage can help point the way to neuroanatomical and neurofunctional underpinnings of creativity. Approximately 50 or so cases with unilateral brain damage largely in one side of the brain, and where the etiology is commonly stroke or tumor have by now been described in the neurological literature Rose, ; Bogousslavsky and Boller, ; Zaidel,ac ; Finger et al.

The key questions concern post-damage alterations in creativity, as well as loss of talent, or skill. Importantly, post-damage output has revealed that their creativity does not increase, nor diminish Zaidel, b.

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Indeed, it would further seem that creativity is highly sensitive to brain damage, more so than artistic productivity, talent, or skill. We could speculate that in the healthy brain cognitive associative networks in the left hemisphere alone, in the right hemisphere alone, or both hemispheres working together contribute to the creative process in art.

However, recent functional neuroimaging evidence based on non-artistic behavior in healthy volunteers points to greater left hemisphere involvement in creativity Gonen-Yaacovi et al. Where do the original ideas in the artwork arise, is a complex question that researchers would like understand Dietrich and Kanso, ; Heilman and Acosta, ; Jung and Haier, The likely answer with regards to the cerebral hemispheres is that both are functional in exceptional creativity, but with each hemisphere contributing a different facet, yet little understood, to the creativity process Zaidel, d.

Some of the artists develop techniques to compensate for loss of basic sensory, perceptual, cognitive, and motoric abilities.

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However, non-artists suffering from similar brain damage display the same behavioral deficits in standard clinical tests and daily life. Such artworks can be interpreted to display novelty, talent, skill, and esthetics, and they have been so interpreted e. However, another interpretation is that they are remnants of previously well-practiced artistic skills, not expressions of creativity per se. The originality of their artworks is limited in scope and breadth, and their imagination seems curtailed compared to that of healthy artists.

One example is the loss of accurate depictions of 3-dimensional objects with right parietal lobe damage de Renzi, Hemi-neglect or hemi-inattention of the left half of space is another example.

Its manifestation is expressed in incomplete painting or drawing of the left half of the canvas. In a majority of the cases, however, neglect symptoms are short lived. The presence of the neglect syndrome has been attributed to imbalance caused by the damage between intact and diseased tissue Zaidel,as well as to an abnormal control of the healthy tissue in the left hemisphere over the right half of space i.

Since the same perceptual deficits can be found in both artists and non-artists, they do not inform us of art-specialized neural substrates. We should wonder why remarkable creativity in the art itself does not develop following brain damage, and why creativity levels remain unchanged in those artists who have practiced art prior to the damage. Compromised connectivity in the associative knowledge and semantic networks is a plausible explanation. For new ideas to originate the entire network of associations needs to be in an intact state see Figure 1.

After all, the well-known creative, influential, and important artists did not have brain damage. Schematic representation of artistic creativity in health versus brain-damage regardless of etiology. Artistic talent normally interacts with the knowledge and semantic systems for maximal expression of creativity.

The left green arrow: The right broken red arrow: Interestingly, there are published reports of neurological cases due to stroke or head injury of non-professional artists who commenced to practice visual art only after the brain damage occurred Finkelstein et al.

What can we glean from these de novo cases? One natural explanation is that the artistic behavior is an alternative to loss of regular language communication capacities, that is, speaking and writing. Art, too, is a communicative system, but it does not appear to be as sensitive to brain damage as language. Art conveys ideas, concepts, and emotions through different means than language and possibly through different brain regionsand like language, it is a symbolic and referential system. Drawing and painting simply expand the communication channels between patient and caretakers, thereby enhancing survival and adaptation, much like the biological motivation to innovate in animals in order to survive.

However, published illustrations of such productions do not bespeak of creativity e. Moreover, judging from the visual details depicted by the artists and the quantity of works they produce, some researchers have argued that the art has a strong obsessive-compulsive feature Finkelstein et al.

One would have expected that the quantity alone would foster experimentation and improvement, as is the case with the prolific, culturally influential artists Rembrandt, Goya, Van Gogh, and so on. Instead, the overall profile suggests that while brain damage does not hamper artistic expression, and allows for talent and skill to be applied effectively, it does not necessarily lead to creativity.

Their artistic behavior ceases when severe motoric deficits profoundly curtail their hand movements. The diffuse damage throughout the brain involves large brain areas, and this makes it difficult to attribute the artistic behavior to specific dedicated regions, pathways, or networks see Viskontas and Miller, A few non-artist patients with degenerative brain diseases commence to exhibit artistic behavior de novo following disease onset Miller et al.

Interpretations have attributed the artistic behavior itself to 1 diminished inhibition of expression due to degeneration of neural pathways that normally exert inhibitory control over the cortex, i. These interpretations assign critical roles in artistic creativity to the prefrontal cortex e.

Alternative interpretations include 1 existence of life-long latent dormant artistic talent; 2 loss of normal language communication abilities Zaidel, The latent artistic talent explanation is highly plausible considering that only a miniscule fraction of dementia patients exhibit spontaneous artistic behavior following disease onset. If it were as simple as loss of cortical inhibitory control, we would witness monumental artistic behavior corresponding to the number of dementia patients.

With regards to creativity, as defined here, the dementia cases exhibiting artistic behavior do not become more creative Rankin et al. Consistent with this observation is a published report of 17 patients non-artists suffering from a frontal variant of FTD who displayed poor and diminished creativity de Souza et al. Such findings and a recent meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies not measuring artistic behavior assign an important role to rostral and caudal portions of the prefrontal cortex in creativity, in general Gonen-Yaacovi et al.

The frontal lobes have rich connections to the rest of the brain, including regions critical for memory, concept formation, and problem solving Fuster, They exert inhibitory control on behavior, and damage in the frontal lobes often results in behavioral disinhibition, socially inappropriate behavior, and neglect of hygiene and physical appearance Teffer and Semendeferi, Can we generalize from these behaviors, which represent deviations from accepted social norms, that patients with frontal lobe damage are creative?

A recent study suggests that they become anything but creative de Souza et al. However, insights into the neural substrates of creativity might be gleaned from decision-making research: Aron and associates Aron et al. Fleming and associates Fleming et al. By inference, then, the frontal lobes are involved in some, but not all, aspects of the creative process in the healthy brain. The effects of the disease and its medication on art is revealing about the neural substrates of artistic production.


Bars You look inside your blue backpack to make sure you have everything. The other three books you own from that series are placed in the other zipped compartment of your bag. You dream of becoming a sleuth one day, solving the mysteries of other people.

You look up at your aunt, a young woman named Isabel, whose cocoa-brown eyes complement her long braids. She is wearing a black pea coat and a blue cashmere sweater, with her long black skirt draping over her black leather boots. She is royally confident, effortlessly stunning. You smile because you love it when she calls you Mademoiselle.

Makes you feel taller. The frigid air makes you relieved that your aunt made you wear two layers of clothes instead of one. Your black bubble-goose jacket and yellow ski cap make you look like a giant penguin. Your walk is more like a waddle because you find it hard to keep a cool stride as you are wearing jeans, heavy stockings, and chunky boots. A black car waits at the corner. He rolls down the front passenger window and waves to you.

You wave back as Aunty Isabel opens a backseat door for you to enter his car. She takes the front. You do as she says, making sure your seat belt is properly latched. You all drive off, and the voyage begins. You take off your gloves and clasp your fingers together to keep them from twitching and twirling, knowing that you will soon reach your destination, where your reward awaits.

You say good-bye to him. The two of you make your way to the line of mostly women and children waiting to step up on a bus. Your fingers are acting up again because they know that you are getting much closer.

It has been too long since you have won last. You have been waiting for a long time. Aunty Isabel gently squeezes your hand.

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You two step up onto the bus and choose two seats at the back, with you by the window and your aunt right next to you. You remove your backpack from your back and hold it close to your chest. After a short while, the bus drives off the lot and makes its way onto a bridge that crosses over a huge stream of water. The sun reveals the crystals sprinkled on the surface. You feel like swimming. You think of the last time you frolicked in a pool.

The incident that made your gift disappear, with the help of blue uniforms and silver badges. You want to return to happy thoughts. There are children spread about, kids older than you, some younger. Dressed in bright orange V-neck shirts and matching pants, women are smiling, talking with their children. A few men in gray uniforms with collared shirts and thick black belts are keeping watch. Your beautiful princess is yelling at one of the uniformed watchmen, pointing her manicured finger at him.

Twenty minutes earlier, you two had arrived at this large room with the other children and supervising adults. Both of you had waited quietly by one of the long tables for one woman in particular to walk up to you with big, open eyes and greet you with a tight hug.

Now her patience is disappearing altogether, chunk by chunk. He is bored and bothered. Aunty Isabel turns her face toward you. You know what she wants to say. As you grab your backpack and sling it over your shoulder, you tell yourself what your aunt has told you throughout this past year, many times. It was probably nothing, just an old picture that had been forgotten about.

There was something about the two of them, though. He could imagine that they had been a couple. This one incriminating piece of evidence tucked away to keep it from being destroyed after the deaths of the people it portrayed.

Wyatt had never hidden being queer, but when it came to everything else, all he did was hide. The weight of passing through the world as something he was not was almost crushing sometimes. It was like having an empty place inside of you, a rough, torn-out spot to be guarded, hidden, lied about. A bruise you could forget even hurt until it was touched. Wyatt stared for another second and then shook his head. Erin took a book and cup of tea to bed and hoped it would stop sometime during the night.

In the morning, though, the world was white, soft and silent, snow still falling from a dark gray sky. Erin stood at the living room window, coffee in hand, and watched the snow fall. About five inches covered her car, with even more blown into sweeping dunes around it. The driveway snaked from her old farmhouse up to the road, both heavy with untouched snow. Beyond the small stand of trees that divided their properties, Erin could just make out her neighbors, bundled up and trying to dig out their cars.

Though Erin had nowhere to be. She could afford to wait, at least until it stopped snowing. Today would be a jeans, heavy sweater, and wool socks kind of day. Erin changed into one of her oldest sweaters, heather green and going to pieces at the bottom and cuffs; jeans stained with dark patches of book glue; and fuzzy socks.

She braided her hair to keep it out of her face. After pouring her second cup of coffee, she went to look at what projects she had to work on in the office. There was a difference between doing something because it was her job and doing something because she loved it. These projects were hers and only hers, not dictated by a library budget or the fact that more-used items needed to be worked on first.

Erin put aside her coffee cup and picked up a volume about the birds of New York and how to identify them. The publication date wasthe book clothbound in unassuming brown, now faded, with gold lettering. It was in fairly good shape, although the spine was detached, causing the boards to break away from the text block as well.

Some of the other books needed full rebinding, which would take more time, so Erin set them aside to work on later. She used a utility knife to slice through the binding cloth, fully detaching the spine and boards from the text block. She set the spine and boards aside and put the text block, now bare, spine up, in a wooden clamp. The sound of wheels crunching through snow made her glance at the window.

It sounded too close to be her neighbors or some brave soul on the road. Setting aside her tools, she went to look outside. A pickup truck with a snowplow attached crawled slowly up the driveway, clearing as it went. Erin pulled open the kitchen door and leaned out into the cold. The truck had parked at the top of her driveway, and the door swung open.

Have some tea, something to eat. Not to mention the thrill that went through her at the idea of sitting down with Rye. They had friends in common: Emma, who ran the local library, and Peter, who ran the historical society. Peter liked throwing dinner parties, and Emma liked introducing people, so it was inevitable that Erin and Rye would meet and be friendly. They were still hovering in that awkward space between friends and acquaintances, although Erin very much hoped the two of them would come down to settle on the side of friendship.

Rye was quiet, she knew. They owned a small farm and sold at the local farmers market. The two of them had spoken about what was good and what was seasonal, so Erin knew they had eating in common.

They just nodded again and pulled open the door, letting in a small burst of snow. She put both on the counter, just to make sure. There was cake Erin had made yesterday, dark with molasses, flavored with cloves and cardamom.

There was also homemade cheese, herb and olive bread from the day before, and goat cheese Erin had bought from a tiny goat farm a forty-minute drive from her house. She put the cake and bread in the oven to warm. Rye parked and climbed out, taking a shovel from the truck bed. Erin pulled on her boots and coat, stuffing her hands into mittens as she stepped out into the snow.

She shoveled a space big enough for her to get to the back of the car and popped the trunk. There was an old broom in there she used to sweep the snow off the car itself. Inside, they shed coats, hats, scarves, and mittens, hanging everything on pegs and leaving their boots on the rubber mat beneath. The food was warmed all the way through, Erin was happy to find, although the water had to be reheated.

She made them both tea while Rye ate their cake. They sat on either side of the table, each with their mug of tea, the food between them. Still, she hoped they were able to keep at least a little of it for themselves.

Especially with as mild as the beginning was. She lifted the mug and took a sip. The easy way they held themselves made Erin want to keep talking, want to tell them about it all. They were both silent for a moment, and then Erin sat forward, elbows on the scarred wood of the table. Too much intimacy too soon. They both looked away. Erin cleared her throat.

But for my own projects, I want more to make books beautiful, you know? Like, take a book that was mass-produced to be a consumer object and turn it into a piece of art. Or take a book that was originally made to be beautiful but has maybe not aged well and make it beautiful again in a different way. Just data collecting, you know. When they looked up at her, their eyes were wide with real surprise.

I mean, I would be doing the work anyway. They returned to the kitchen. She washed and they dried until the dishes were put away. Rye hung up the dish towel and wiped their hands dry on their pants. She watched them dress for the cold. Outside, the wind was still blowing clouds of snow into the air.