Etikettarkiv: Samir Zeki

Neuroeconomics gone wild: cognitive psychology anyone?

It seems like a contradiction to ‘outsmart your brain’,  but as as Seattle times report in their article on Neuroeconomics and behavioral economics, the brain is adapted in ways that modernity and its economies are not always in tune with. In short –  we make choces we do not fully understand. Thus this step-by-step run-down let us delve into the predictably irrational behavior that has all economists scratching their bald heads. All but the neruoeconomists, who are having a field day. 

Now a disturbing fact most of you consumption discontents need to point your eyes to is the notion of instant gratification, when buying or consuming stuff, as explained by Jason Zweig from the Wall Street Journal.  We get an emotional kick from buying, so choosing between a Pollock and Nerdrum (Pollock usually out pricing Nerdrum), could be difficult in cases we are talked into something by our brain juice. Zweig recommends silly associational thinking like to add dates and colorful names to financial goals. This sounds awfully like my therapist, talking about tha virtues of cognitive resonance and such.

Will this method make you richer less poor? Ask Zeki who this month delves into the concept of greed, but before reading his meditations I urge everyone to look at what Michael Douglas has to say about the matter.

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Neuromusic and the autonomy of artists


The brain could have a center for subdivision of artistic autonomy and social code, according to deafness researchers Charles J. Limb and Allen R. Braun in an article on Plos ONE. Sounds explosive, of course, which research on these complex issues always does when it is simplified in catchy terms. The writers argue that there was extensive de-activation in the frontal cortex as well as in those areas of the brain that are thought to regulate emotions when they fMRI:ed Jazz pianists while improvising. Limb and Braun write that the frontal areas that were de-activated in their study are believed to be important for the conscious monitoring, evaluation and correction of behaviour. One of the de-activated prefrontal regions may be involved in assessing whether behavior conform to social demands, exerting inhibitory control over inappropriate or maladaptive performance. Basically they are assessing that, on a neural level, social demands, pressure and various inherent human codes could stagger the performance of the artist, in this case a improvising pianist. But they are stating it while watching the Jazz improvisations, so this is not self-induced, conscious de-activations but strictly neural (neurodarwinian) ones.

It is an interesting piece of research and combined with cultural sociology, philosophy and behavioral economics I think we could get even closer to finding out if and how Politics with a big P (or the ”disruption of the distribution of the sensible” – that which is sensed, thought and felt in the world) shapes and moulds artistic works in a way more subtle than propaganda, cultural policy, economical fluctuations and academic training could formulate.

Semir Zeki, professor of neurobiology and neuroaesthetics at University College London, blogs about this article stating: ”It is only when an artist is dis-inhibited that he or she can reach the heights of artistic achievement.”, recalling quotes by Proust and others in a far to simplifying manner. He definitely misses the complex form of today´s aesthetic processes as well as slightly overestimating the significance of only one study on Jazz pianists. A simple counterexample is Swede Måns Wrange, as an example, whose Good Rumour Project has been ongoing in different guises for five years, with avatars in exhibitions, seminars, publications and of course the very complexity of the piece itself which involves the interaction of possible millions of people. When and how you should scan Wrange for potential de-activations in the frontal cortex, I leave to another blog post.

Jazz pianists is the first of step toward an understanding of the creative brain, what we need is researcher and artists alike working in a cross section in order to really grasp complexities in the brain. So, keep up the good work fMRI:ers!

Bytheway: Oliver Sacks has some interesting writings in the neuromusic area as well, check it!

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