Where in the Brain is Creativity?

Prof. Arne Dietrich (American University of Beirut)

Creativity is the fountainhead of human civilizations. All progress and innovation depend on our ability to change existing thinking patterns, break with the present, and build something new. Progress, however, in any field of science, depends on a clear conception of the topic under study and a toolkit of methods that enables researchers to tackle specific questions in an empirical manner. Since the pioneering work of Guilford half a century ago, the experimental study of creativity has been plagued by the lack of both. We know very little about the mechanisms, cognitive or neural, that give rise to creative thinking.

What’s more, when it comes to mechanistic explanations at the neurocognitive level, the field of creativity is riddled with examples of myopic theorizing. Open any source on the topic, academic or otherwise, and you will find creativity linked with, say, divergent thinking, low arousal, defocused attention, right brains, sleep, lateral thinking, intentional reasoning, the unconscious, altered states of consciousness, or mental illness, to name a few of the most popular duds. The present talk will show that (1) these ideas are theoretically incoherent and (2) data using neuroimaging paradigms do not bear them out. A new approach is presented that makes more serious contact with mainstream cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology.

When 6:30pm – 8:00pm, Thursday, 9 September 2010
Where Lecture Theatre 1, Wilkinson Building

About the Speaker

Arne Dietrich is Professor of Psychology at the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon. He holds a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Georgia, USA. Professor Dietrich has done research on the higher cognitive functions supported by the prefrontal cortex, focusing on the neural mechanisms of (1) creativity, (2) altered states of consciousness, and (3) the psychological effects of exercise. Professor Dietrich’s major publications include a theoretical framework for the neural basis of creativity, (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2004), a comprehensive review article of neuroscientific studies of creativity (Psychological Bulletin, 2010), a new, mechanistic theory of altered states of consciousness, the transient hypofrontality theory (Consciousness and Cognition, 2003, 2004), and the proposal of two new explanations for the effects of exercise on emotion and cognition. He is also the author of a textbook on consciousness (Macmillan, 2007). Professor Dietrich has given numerous invited lectures around the world and his research has been featured prominently in the international press.

The Dynamic Brain

Professor Peter Robinson (Double Australian Research Council Federation Fellow)

The brain’s activity varies around the clock in response to stimuli, light inputs, and the build-up and clearance of sleep-promoting chemicals – somnogens. Signatures of brain activity have been observed for over a century and are widely used to probe brain function and disorders, often via the electroencephalogram (EEG) recorded by electrodes on the scalp, or through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures a combination of blood volume and deoxygenation.

Learn more about a quantitative physiologically based model of the working brain is described that responds correctly to the day-night cycle, somnogens, caffeine and pharmaceuticals, and generates activity in the cortex consistent with brain imaging measurements. Successful applications to numerous experiments are described, including EEGs, seizures, sleep deprivation and recovery, fatigue, and shift work. Aside from its scientific uses, this working brain model is currently finding clinical and industrial applications to brain function measurement and to prediction and monitoring of alertness.

When 7:00pm-8:00pm, Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Where The Darlington Centre
Cost FREE for members of the Royal Society of NSW
Otherwise: $5
RSVP Please contact Insert Name
Please click here