Thoughts on psychosis, creativity, what is “normal” and random brain stimulation

It is intriguing to think of how much of the brain is a continuum, and how much the definition of “normal” shifts from era to era. Traditionally black and white concepts such as genius, evil and madness, are challenged by new discoveries, and new looks at the way the brain processes impulses and inhibits behaviors. To many of us, this is old news. As any long time owner of a brain will tell you, it is hard to deny occasionally walking the line between normal and madness, or between genius and mediocrity. Recent surveys of the general population add further evidence to this. “Do you ever think people are talking about you?”, “Do you ever hear voices?”, “Do you ever think you might have special powers?”, “Do you ever talk to yourself, out loud?” Many people considered normal answer yes to questions usually reserved for people with some form of psychosis! I admit I have been talking to myself and openly berating malfunctioning electronic equipment since I was old enough to speak. In truth the brain often seems like a gray area in more than just color, and the definition of normal seems to be shifting.

A recent study by Daniel Nettle, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, suggests that one of the only defining differences between creativity and schizophrenia is the motivation to act, and the ability to feel and express emotions. Interestingly, he also analyzed mathematicians for symptoms of schizophrenia, and found just as many as in poets and artists – but in different areas. While mathematicians in general didn’t report near as many unusual experiences as schizophrenics, they did exhibit an “abnormal” lack of emotion and motivation.

Salvador Dali - Perfect example of an insane genius if there ever was oneDespite the evidence to the contrary, most of us feel fairly normal and well adjusted. In fact many people feel they could use an enhancement to their creative side. Creativity is “in”, and any resulting eccentricities are an acceptable side effect. Corporations pay big bucks to have their employees attend creativity-enhancing seminars. From a brainwave perspective, bursts of creativity seem almost inevitable. When I first started using entrainment I was amazed at the myriad of unrelated thoughts that would pass through my head. Memories from years past would surface, and my mind would start connecting ideas I never considered before. Creativity itself seems to be the act of connecting two previously unrelated ideas to form a new one. It is no surprise that ADD is linked to creativity. Having a mind that is naturally “out of the box” and constantly jumping from subject to subject can be an advantage during a brainstorming session.

Michael Hutchison wrote of a creativity-enhancing technique involving random stimulation at varying frequencies. David Siever writes of a similar method using music to control the entrainment rates, noting that “music modulation far outperforms theta sessions for creativity enhancement”. Our “brainstorming” session in NP2 follows these concepts by delivering erratic, semi-random stimulation that follows no particular pattern or predefined purpose. The idea is to stimulate the brain such that it is bombarded with as many ideas, memories and states as possible, until NEW ideas begin to take shape, and new mental connections are formed. There is a similar concept implemented in the “pRoshi” device by Roshi Corporation, which delivers semi-random stimulation from 1-45 hz, changed every few seconds. There is growing evidence that “random” protocols do stimulate neuronal growth. What is even more fascinating, in light of recent research on psychosis, is the evidence that random protocols may even be useful in TREATING schizophrenia. Common sense would say the last thing someone with psychosis needs is more randomness in their life, but again – analysis of the brain and how it processes information is dramatically changing how we look at everything.

The famous musician Sergei Rachmaninov composed his greatest work using a form of hypnosis. The “Rach 3″ is so complex that people have been driven near insane just trying to play it :)

Click here to hear an excerpt of audio insanity… er, I mean normality.

What we’ve been up to:

One of my favorite parts of this job is testing new equipment, and I just got done spending several weeks with a new pair of light glasses from AVStim. I must say, I’m impressed. The main feature I like is the positioning of the lights. No matter where my eyes drift to during a session, they still seem equally illuminated by the light. Additionally, the fact that these glasses can easily convert into an “open-eye” design is a fantastic feature (though one I don’t personally use often). According to the manufacturer, they spent a lot of time and money researching this new set, and so far I think it has lived up to the hype. I’ve taken quite a liking to them.

Here are some home made pictures I made of the new glasses:

  

Till next time, take care!

Adam

5 Comments to “Thoughts on psychosis, creativity, what is “normal” and random brain stimulation”

  1. Neurofreak 5 December 2006 at 9:22 am #

    “There is growing evidence that “random” protocols do stimulate neuronal growth. What is even more fascinating, in light of recent research on psychosis, is the evidence that random protocols may even be useful in TREATING schizophrenia.”

    That’s so strange. I’d love to hear more about that. Where does the neuronal growth take place?

  2. Berg 7 December 2006 at 7:46 pm #

    That is a very interesting article. Regarding the study by Daniel Nettle on schizophrenia, I wanted to mention that the same types of findings have also surfaced in the area of autism. Symptoms of autism are common in many people. It is estimated that 1 in 166 new borns may have some sort of autism spectrum disorder. However, some studies have the estimate the number affected to be higher. Many individuals with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome simply go undiagnosed. These are conditions where individuals display some symptoms of autism but still are able to function close to or above a society’s definition of “normal”. are Therefore these individuals “pass” as normal albeit slightly “eccentric.” Symptoms of autism have been found in people working in a variety of fields from math and science to the arts.

    You wrote, “The definition of “normal” shifts from era to era.” I agree completely. From 1993 cases of autism spectrum disorder jumped from 15,500 to over 141,000. While many believe the increase is due to better diagnostic methods, others argue that methodology could not produce such a drastic rise in cases.

    The reason for the increase is still being debated. Some allege it is due to selective breeding. For example the tech heavy areas of Palo Alto, Seattle, and Boston have a much higher percentage of autistics than the rest of the United States. The argument is that highly-intelligent parents with some autistic traits (they do not need to be autistic themselves) have a much greater chance of producing offspring children with some sort of autism spectrum disorder (See: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers.html). Others assert it is due to medical treatment or even pollution. Regardless of the cause, it is clear that it is becoming more and more normal.

  3. Adam 8 December 2006 at 1:10 pm #

    “That’s so strange. I’d love to hear more about that. Where does the neuronal growth take place?”

    I first heard about this in the Neurofeedback community, and later in my conversations with Chuck Davis, who is the inventor of the pRoshi, who used to work with Hershel Toomim (inventor of HEG). It’s all still preliminary, but anecdotal evidence is pretty strong, and a few studies are in the works. The idea is that random frequencies emulate actual neuronal communication. Done correctly, it can help teach the brain how to communicate better, with itself. In Chuck’s words “the brain lays down new tracks”. At least that is the theory so far. He also mentioned that they actually measured neuronal growth somehow, and in response to your comment I emailed him asking for more info on that, but haven’t heard back yet (the reason for the delay in my response). My own experience is kind of interesting – using random sessions spanning up into the gamma range I still get a relaxed feeling, and biofeedback using a GSR becomes significantly easier – but it is not anything like the relaxed feeling of an alpha or theta session. In any case we’re going to be implementing random features into our future products, so hopefully that encourages more research in this area.

  4. Adam 8 December 2006 at 1:17 pm #

    Berg – great comment, thanks for the link! Very interesting stuff.

    During my time in the tech sector I did meet many strange but certainly brilliant people – it wouldn’t surprise me if many of them had autistic or near autistic children, or even that they were borderline autistic themselves.

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