Category Archives: Brain

the creative individual

People are more creative than others and are literally bubbling with ideas, while others rarely or never show signs of creativity. What should we look for when searching for creative people?
Creativity can quite simply be defined as the capacity to come up with new ideas to serve a purpose. Creativity is thus one of the most important sources of renewal. Creativity contributes to innovation and improvements in working life, commerce and industry.

No wonder employers want creative employees in areas where it is essential to come up with proposals for new products and services, and new ways of doing things.
The creative personality
Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen at BI Norwegian Business School has conducted a study to develop a personality profile for creative people: Which personality traits characterize creative people?
The study was conducted with 481 people with different backgrounds. The segment consists of various groups of more or less creative people.

  • The first group of creative people consists of 69 artists working as actors or musicians in a well-known symphony orchestra or are members of an artist’s organization with admission requirements.
  • The second group of creative people consists of 48 students of marketing.
  • The remaining participants in the study are managers, lecturers and students in programs that are less associated with creativity than marketing.

The creativity researcher mapped the participants’ personality traits and tested their creative abilities and skills through various types of tasks.
Seven creativity characteristics
In his study Martinsen identifies seven paramount personality traits that characterize creative people:
• 1. Associative orientation: Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.
• 2. Need for originality: Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude due to a need to do things no one else does.
• 3. Motivation: Have a need to perform, goal-oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues.
• 4. Ambition: Have a need to be influential, attract attention and recognition.
• 5. Flexibility: Have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optional solutions.
• 6. Low emotional stability: Have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state, failing self-confidence.
• 7. Low sociability: Have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and flaws in ideas and people.
Among the seven personality traits, associative orientation and flexibility are the factors that to the greatest extent lead to creative thinking.
“Associative orientation is linked to ingenuity. Flexibility is linked to insight,” says the professor. The other five characteristics describe emotional inclinations and motivational factors that influence creativity or spark an interest in creativity.
“The seven personality traits influence creative performance through inter-action,” Martinsen points out.
Øyvind L. Martinsen. The Creative Personality: A Synthesis and Development of the Creative Person Profile. Creativity Research Journal, 2011; 23 (3): 185 DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2011.595656

 

The Brain and Emotional Self-Control

Different brain areas are activated when we choose to suppress an emotion, compared to when we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according a new study from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Ghent University.
In this study, published in Brain Structure and Function, the researchers scanned the brains of healthy participants and found that key brain systems were activated when choosing for oneself to suppress an emotion. They had previously linked this brain area to deciding to inhibit movement.
“This result shows that emotional self-control involves a quite different brain system from simply being told how to respond emotionally,” said lead author Dr Simone Kuhn (Ghent University).
In most previous studies, participants were instructed to feel or inhibit an emotional response. However, in everyday life we are rarely told to suppress our emotions, and usually have to decide ourselves whether to feel or control our emotions.
In this new study the researchers showed fifteen healthy women unpleasant or frightening pictures. The participants were given a choice to feel the emotion elicited by the image, or alternatively to inhibit the emotion, by distancing themselves through an act of self-control.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of the participants. They compared this brain activity to another experiment where the participants were instructed to feel or inhibit their emotions, rather than choose for themselves.
Different parts of the brain were activated in the two situations. When participants decided for themselves to inhibit negative emotions, the scientists found activation in the dorso-medial prefrontal area of the brain. They had previously linked this brain area to deciding to inhibit movement.
In contrast, when participants were instructed by the experimenter to inhibit the emotion, a second, more lateral area was activated.
“We think controlling one’s emotions and controlling one’s behaviour involve overlapping mechanisms,” said Dr Kuhn.
“We should distinguish between voluntary and instructed control of emotions, in the same way as we can distinguish between making up our own mind about what do, versus following instructions.”
Regulating emotions is part of our daily life, and is important for our mental health. For example, many people have to conquer fear of speaking in public, while some professionals such as health-care workers and firemen have to maintain an emotional distance from unpleasant or distressing scenes that occur in their jobs.
Professor Patrick Haggard (UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience) co-author of the paper said the brain mechanism identified in this study could be a potential target for therapies.
“The ability to manage one’s own emotions is affected in many mental health conditions, so identifying this mechanism opens interesting possibilities for future research.
“Most studies of emotion processing in the brain simply assume that people passively receive emotional stimuli, and automatically feel the corresponding emotion. In contrast, the area we have identified may contribute to some individuals’ ability to rise above particular emotional situations.
“This kind of self-control mechanism may have positive aspects, for example making people less vulnerable to excessive emotion. But altered function of this brain area could also potentially lead to difficulties in responding appropriately to emotional situations.”

Glutamate levels in the brain may be linked to alcohol craving

Craving consists of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral elements related to a desire to drink alcohol, and can be experienced during intoxication, withdrawal, and/or prior to relapse. Different types of craving are hypothesized to be associated with different neurotransmitter systems. For example, reward craving may be mediated by dopamine and opioids, obsessive craving by serotonin, and relief craving by glutamate. This study used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to examine the correlation between craving and glutamate levels in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (LDLPFC) of patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs).emotions01

Fourteen participants (8 females, 6 males) underwent 1H-MRS to measure glutamate levels in the LDLPFC. Researchers also used the Pennsylvania Alcohol Craving Scale (PACS) and a research-validated interview method to quantify craving for alcohol and drinking patterns, respectively.

Although the study sample is small, these data suggest that glutamate levels in the LDLPFC are associated with alcohol-craving intensity in patients with AUDs. Glutamate spectroscopy may be able to help identify biological measures of alcohol-craving intensity and help with treatment interventions.

  1. Mark A. Frye, David J. Hinton, Victor M. Karpyak, Joanna M. Biernacka, Lee J. Gunderson, Jennifer Geske, Scott E. Feeder, Doo-Sup Choi, John D. Port. Elevated Glutamate Levels in the Left Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Are Associated with Higher Cravings for Alcohol. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/acer.13131