09 June 2009

Neuroplasticity, or the Importance of Having Creative People Chat with You Online

So I’m reading this book about neuroplasticity, because, for some odd reason, I’ve become obsessed with the brain since last year. I scan bookshelves for anything about nuerology, preferably ones that bring in the psychologists and philosophers. Maybe one day, they will have a poet in there somewhere. It is quite possible. For example, I find a lot of neurology books have epilogues before each chapter, and more often than not, a poet is quoted. Yes, that’s right, a poet. Nine times out of ten, if the writer of the neurology book is British, the poetry epilogues will be even more frequent. Just tonight, I was reading a chapter on Network Remodeling and Milton’s Paradise Lost was quoted: “The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a heaven of hell”

Neuroscience and Milton! Well, my bath couldn’t have gotten any better, no, no. It was bliss right then and there.

Mixing things up, together, swirling them around. Doesn’t the day seem odd when it’s the routine of this and that, of work and TV, of Facebook and stalking things to their tiny little core bodies? Doesn’t it get old, treading the old path, day in, day out?

I stay secluded a lot. Mostly, I try to get on a fixed schedule and keep such and such in order. However, as I find in my layman’s study of neuroscience, the brain just isn’t functioning properly if we tread the same path each day. Someone said that if the world was a room, most people stay in a tiny corner their whole lives, and if the brain was a forest, we’d be a dog, walking in the same circle, pushing the same ol’ rock. Or, at least, I feel I would be like that dog, getting very little real estate in the vast amount of space the brain inhabits.

The brain gets in ruts just by our mental lives as well. Not just our routines dull our day, but our mental life as well, unless we look for pathways outside the circle, something to do other than pushing that rock. The actual foundation and mapping of our brain shifts, when we decide to stand on one leg, instead of two…

In The Mind & Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force, Jeffery M. Schwartz writes:

“The brains response to messages from its environment is shaped by its experiences—experiences not only during gestation and infancy, as most neuroscientists were prepared to accept, but by our experiences throughout life. The life we live, in other words, shapes the brain we develop.”

I was sitting at my desk this morning, woken up by thunder and lightning. CRACK! My power strips flickered. The lightbulb gave a sigh. I sat there, dazed. If the lightning had not cracked, would I have felt my body this way, in this moment? I don’t know why I had this thought, but it was this thought that brought to mind a friend of mine and how he represents that “kick” out of the everyday that I experience while at work.

I sit at my desk, a lot. If I’m not working, I’m trying to write, or I’m just passively cruising the internet, wondering why I’m even online at all…wasting my day. Online. Which line? Not sure. So, I’m at my desk a lot. Usually, I’m working and though I love my new job, of course I’d rather be eating strawberries or something watching Wimbledon or reading George Herbert. (What, is it weird that someone ENJOYS reading George Herbert?) Anyway, so he pops up daily on gchat. And the thing is, I never know what we’ll talk about. Today, he told me about a Russian Villian Mythological character. A whole interwoven idea of a short story based on a painting, and why, exactly, folklore employs witches as wise sages. If it’s not this, then it’s how he’s actively contemplating the logistics of how to craft a laptop casing out of wood. Not only this, but the basic outline of the engeneering of why laptop casings are plastic, how the flow of heat works and dissipates, etc. Sorry, he says, am I boring you? NO! Not at all. Here I was, feeling sorry for myself that I’m stuck in my office, and now I’m learning about Russian Folklore and artistic computer casing matters.

See where the brain takes you when you let other people in?

And this is a running theme with this friend of mine. I’ll be feeling sad, and he sends me a picture of some strange looking animal he just happens to be researching on the side, or a funny comic, or how and why computers could never form “creative thoughts” and thus become AI. I disagreed. I thought, since God created man in his own image, perhaps now humans are becoming God and creating computers in their own image, which will thus turn around and destroy us, (assuming we create AI robots who then turn on us). And the cycle will begin again once God steps in and repairs the damage man and machine have done…Big Bang…perhaps that was simply the last human race blowing themselves up.

But what I mean is, this train of thought would never have been ingaged without his help. And links. And amazingly witty status updates.

There’s the thing. The “thing.” The New Thing about Today. The lingo. Status updates. Who would have thought we’d talk about such things as “status updates?” Sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, doesn’t it?

Just today, my friend said “Sorry, I was temporarily invisible.” And I had to laugh.

But here’s the thing. Neurologically, friends like this are beneficial.

My paths from day to day, are pretty much the same, once I get on a routine. I don’t often think about things “outside my realm” unless they are on my own terms. And, as I have been reading, this is bad for my neuronal circuts. They get bored thinking about the same things. Taking the same steps. Listening to the same thoughts inside the same head.

And so, everyone should have a brilliant, creative friend on gchat who will go into very fine detail on all sorts of topics.

Because, when you allow yourself to converse with others, I’m sure the brain is appreaciative.

I mean, who would have thought I’d hear a hypothetical way to build a wooden case?

The rain was pouring. I was drinking coffee, wondering if I’d write anything later on, after work. And my friends voice jumps in, describes his newest project:

i would have to built the trunk from scratch
and i am just a little too lazy to do that when i can buy one prebuilt for a reasonable cost
so all i need to do is move heat out of the case faster than it accumulates (or at the same rate)
9:36 AM for this i need two things
1. ventillation
2. a heat conducting material
the ventillation will obviously be fans
and for heat conduction i will use small copper pipe, which is cheap and plentiful at the hardware store
9:37 AM since hot air rises, i will put the larger exhaust fan at the top and run the pipes near it, and it will pull the heat off them at that end
9:38 AM that causes a temperature difference in the copper, which means they will try to equalize, which means heat will travel toward the exhaust fan, which in turn means the copper will absorb heat from the surrounding air
9:41 AM etc, etc, &co, ad nauseum

Indeed. Whole lives open up, whole new worlds, when we look beyond our own brain, and invite other’s to join in conversation.

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