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  #1  
Unread May 8th, 2006, 01:38 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
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Cool Damasios: Professors of Creativity

Press Release from USC on the Damasios' latest job ...

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When it comes to creativity, USC College has the market cornered.

In fall 2005, Antonio and Hanna Damasio, two eminent neuroscientists, will join USC as professors of psychology and neuroscience where they will lead a new institute devoted to the study of the brain and human creativity.

Scholars have long researched how creativity can be taught and nurtured, but the Damasios have expanded the definition of “creative” to include some unexpected concepts.

“Creativity is not just about the creation of an art object, or a piece of music, or a film, or the creation of a scientific project, but also about the creation of social relations and of cultural institutions,” says Antonio Damasio. “People rarely associate these latter areas with creativity, but anytime we produce something new, be it an architectural drawing, classroom curriculum, or a new approach to a business problem, the creative process is at work.”

Studying things like economics, education and governance from a neurobiological perspective has rarely been done. But pioneering something new, be it a concept, a research finding, or another best-seller, is what the Damasios are known for.

Their professional careers have been steeped in creative moments. A distinguished physician, Antonio Damasio’s research on the neurobiology of the mind has had a major influence on our current understanding of the neural systems that underlie emotion, memory, language, decision-making and consciousness. His work has shown that emotions play a central role in human decision-making. His books on the mind include Descartes' Error; The Feeling of What Happens; and Looking for Spinoza. They are widely read by the lay public as well as by scientists.

Through basic research, medical case studies and philosophical analysis, he has investigated the biological roots of consciousness and helped to reveal its role in survival. His work has spanned many fields and includes studies of Alzheimer’s and other human diseases.

And there’s his equally creative wife Hanna Damasio, a neurologist and neuroscientist acclaimed for developing new brain imaging techniques and imaging methods in the study of brain lesions. She is the author of the first atlas of the brain based on computerized images, Human Brain Anatomy in Computerized Image. A second edition is due for release in early 2005. Her award-winning book Lesion Analysis in Neuropsychology is widely used in brain imaging work.

They come to USC College from the University of Iowa College of Medicine, where Hanna Damasio, Distinguished Professor of Neurology, directed the Laboratory for Human Neuroanatomy and Neuroimaging and developed a prominent research center dedicated to the investigation of language and other aspects of behavior and cognition.

"The Damasios’ vision, scientific leadership and breadth of knowledge in modern neurobiology will allow us to ask and answer new questions about the human mind and behavior," says Joseph Aoun, dean of the College. “They will be vital catalysts in our quest to unlock the mysteries of the mind and to better understand higher brain functions, including creativity, learning, memory, consciousness and language."

Both Damasios are members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; he is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Neurosciences Research Program and the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. Individually and together they have received numerous scientific awards.

“USC College has the sort of vibrant academic environment where one can dream of brain science and the humanities coming together to produce a better future,” says Antonio Damasio, who will direct the USC Institute for the Study of the Brain and Creativity.

The interdisciplinary institute will examine how knowledge from modern neurobiology can contribute to the elucidation of the creative process and how such knowledge can assist individuals and institutions in the betterment of human affairs—namely through the resolution of human conflict and through education.

The core of the institute is a laboratory focused on mind and behavior. Hanna Damasio will direct the laboratory and work closely with the USC Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center, which she will co-direct.

"The new brain imaging methods offer unprecedented possibilities for the study of human nature,”she says. “But for those studies to succeed neuroscience must form partnerships with, for example, the social sciences, engineering, and psychology. The structure and faculty of USC are ideal for such collaborations.”

The institute will approach three themes from a neurobiological perspective.

By looking at the broad topic of governance, scientists will examine how social emotions contribute to the understanding of economic, business and political institutions, including their ethical dimensions in the age of globalization.

The theme of artistic and scientific creativity will analyze the creative process that goes into the production of films, music, literature, the visual arts and architecture. By approaching this area from a neuroscience standpoint, the Damasios may look at why some people are more creative in certain areas than in others.

Under the theme of education, scientists will investigate how neuroscience can be applied to improve the way classroom curriculum is designed. By studying the learning process from a neurobiological perspective, they may gleam new insights that teachers can then adapt to their educational technique and curriculum.

“The possibilities for exploration are practically limitless,” says Antonio Damasio.

Adds Dean Aoun, "Because the study of the mind and human behavior does not fall within the domain of a single discipline, scholars from across the USC campus, from neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience, and the schools of cinema, education and communication, will be actively involved in this cutting-edge area of research that has important societal implications.”

Both Damasios are graduates of the University of Lisbon Medical School and adjunct professors at the Salk Institute in La Jolla. They join USC as part of the College’s Senior Faculty Hiring Initiative, a drive to bring 100 senior level scholars to USC. Just two years after announcing the bold initiative, the College has recruited 55 senior scholars to campus.

“This highly interdisciplinary approach to brain science will no doubt lead to extraordinary discoveries,” says Aoun.
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  #2  
Unread May 8th, 2006, 02:10 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

How very cool.

It was reading Descarte's Error for the first time about three years ago that I first started wondering about the possibility that emotions were the directing force in our minds - and intellect a newly evolved resource that ocassionally gets called upon in decision-making.

The story of Phinneus Gage blew me away.

Thanks for posting this, Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; May 8th, 2006 at 03:40 PM.
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  #3  
Unread May 12th, 2006, 07:26 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

"I first started wondering about the possibility that emotions were the directing force in our minds - and intellect a newly evolved resource that ocassionally gets called upon in decision-making."

Pinker beat you to it....but the limbic system is NOT our elevator's ground floor.

JB
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  #4  
Unread May 14th, 2006, 08:11 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

JB: Your post seems to saying that I claimed first knowledge. My full statement was ,
Quote:
It was reading Descarte's Error for the first time about three years ago that I first started wondering about the possibility that emotions were the directing force in our minds - and intellect a newly evolved resource that ocassionally gets called upon in decision-making.
But aside from that, I am pleased that you believe that Pinker posed this possibility already.

I have not found it yet in his writings or in Robert Wright's interview of him. I am on Chapter 14 of Blank Slate. I skimmed through How the Mind Works but found no chapter headings or anything that seems headed in that direction. Do you have a cite?

It would be very cool if, as you say, Pinker had this same insight.

BTW - I am enjoying The Blank Slate immensely. Thanks for recommending it. I am finding some things in Chapters 11 thru 14 that I don't feel completely comfortable with. But I need to re-read those chapters carefully before I'd be ready to say that I agreed or disagreed.

You said,
Quote:
...but the limbic system is NOT our elevator's ground floor.
That's the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Why are you so sure about that? What have I missed?

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; May 14th, 2006 at 08:57 PM.
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  #5  
Unread May 15th, 2006, 03:19 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

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MM: first started wondering about the possibility that emotions were the directing force in our minds - and intellect a newly evolved resource that ocassionally gets called upon in decision-making.

JB: Pinker beat you to it....but the limbic system is NOT our elevator's ground floor.
Yeah, as did Damasio and LeDoux. Never really understood what exactly MM felt was so unique about her so-called hypothesis—that “we do that which we most want to do, emotionally”—except that it’s pretty much a useless oversimplification and circular explanation of the neuroscience that these guy discuss in far greater depth; and that she more or less ignores input from cognitive consciousness, reducing “choice” to a mere weighing of primitive instincts.

Regarding the “ground floor,” at the risk of rehash, if Max (father of quantum theory) Planck’s POV—that “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force [and that we] must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind [and that this] Mind is the matrix of all matter”—has any validity, then at bottom is mind—take the elevator down far enough, past the brain stem, and past the neurons, the molecules and atoms, and into the mysterious quantum world of wave-particles, timelessness, and non-locality, and maybe you end up where you started, full circle, although pi remains infinite . . . and maybe the world isn’t flat after all . . . but I digress….
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  #6  
Unread May 15th, 2006, 10:35 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

JB, After thinking longer about your post . . . a couple of additional thoughts came to mind.

First you say that my idea is not original . . . even though I've never claimed it was. You say that Master Pinker himself was the originator of this concept. When I ask for a cite you give no response.

Then you say that the limbic system is not the elevator's ground floor. For someone so free with the metaphors you seem curiously unwilling to flesh out their meaning and eliminate the ambiguity they bring to the discussion.

Are you saying that emotions are not the data type that the limbic system was designed by evolution to process? Are you implying that cognition or something else is on the elevator's ground floor?

In the other thread Carey accused me of offering a throw-away comment about my cat. Within an hour of reading that I backed it up with an explanation that could be challenged and a link to further data.

Simply saying that I am wrong, even though Pinker seems to have had a similar idea about this, with no explanation as to why I am wrong - is the ultimate throw away comment. Was Pinker wrong too?

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; May 16th, 2006 at 09:55 AM.
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  #7  
Unread May 16th, 2006, 10:05 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

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[MM to JimB:] Then you say that the limbic system is not the elevator's ground floor. For someone so free with the metaphors you seem curiously unwilling to flesh out their meaning and eliminate the ambiguity they bring to the discussion.

Are you saying that emotions are not the data type that the limbic system was designed by evolution to process? Are you implying that cognition or something else is on the elevator's ground floor?
JimB’s ground floor seems to be the brainstem.

Although, Margaret, you rarely seem to be appreciative whenever I’ve gone out of my way to provide you with useful info in your quest, here again, caring guy that I am, is more of what you’re asking about from an exchange in early 2003 where JimB briefly discusses this area in response to a “Glenn,” and I also comment (And wouldn’t you agree that I’ve provided you with far more meaningful info than say TomJ ever has, except that I don’t sugarcoat my evaluations of your various “hypotheses ?”)—

Quote:
To Pithycus: About the Brainstem and TonyD James Brody · 01/17/03 at 9:18 ET

Glenn! Nice to see your name on the board! I hope that you and your family are well. Damascio...I think a short guy with very tall hair...has defined a niche for himself. He commits, however, the error made by cortical lovers, that of neglecting the brainstem.

The brainstem is laid out in segments like the thorax and belly of a fly and may, someday, be understood in terms of our non-cerebral anatomy. Hox genes and our anatomy have parallel, linear arrangements, that organization may be applied to our brainstem and cranial nerves.

The limbic system and cortex may be emergent gifts from the same architects that organize our mouths (labia) and foreheads...extra genes that paired with the anterior members (spiracle and antennadae?) of the Hox sequence to give us a more elaborate brain.

Yes, Tony is correct, there WILL be self-magnifying organizations within the limbic labyrinth but they are fed from below and from above. They may have semi-autonomy from cortex and brainstem but they are neither unfettered nor in charge of the neural triad.
JimB



Re:EMOTIONS Fred H. · 01/17/03 at 7:44 PM ET

Glenn: “Damasio is saying, in effect, that innate feelings motivate behavior.”

Hi Glenn: I’m a Damasio fan myself (in spite of his tall hair, and I think JimB has it wrong about Damasio being a cortical lover...Damasio struck me more a brain stem lover!)--I thought his ideas and explanation on what consciousness is and how it’s generated, and his explanations of the mechanics and neurochemistry of emotion, and especially the necessity of emotion in creating sense of “self,” were fabulous. However, I’m an even bigger fan of LeDoux (LeDoux’s “Synaptic Self,” 2002, is fantastic).

Any way, I don’t think Damasio ever says, or implies, that “feelings motivate behavior.” My simplified POV on all this is as follows: Stimuli trigger the primitive subcortical emotional neural circuitry which then activates the subcortical motivational circuitry which results in behavior, without and/or before conscious awareness of the stimuli. As you mentioned, maybe ½ second later, our higher cognitive consciousness then becomes aware of what’s going on and “feels” the and experiences the emotion and the behavior (believing it has been the author of the whole process). After becoming consciously/cognitively aware of what’s going on, we may then attempt to consciously (downwardly) manage our emotion/behavior; but of course at the same time we are consciously “feeling” the emotion(s) which then tremendously influence our cognitive perceptions and thinking. I’m convinced that, for the most part, emotion trumps “reason,” plus, “reason” (and consciousness) doesn’t seem possible without adequate emotional input.

LeDoux writes: “motivation can be thought of in terms of incentives without assuming that feelings are necessary to translate incentives into actions....In the presence of conditioned (learned) or unconditioned (innate) incentives [or stimuli], emotion systems are activated, placing the brain in a state where an instrumental response [where a behavior is instrumental in achieving/avoiding something] becomes a highly probable outcome...[and we thereby avoid] hypothetical concepts like drives or subjective states to explain motivated action. All we need to talk about is real brain systems and their functions.” He also notes that, “The brain can be thought of as having a variety of systems that it uses to interact with the environment and keep itself alive.” What’s important is the particular function these systems perform, whether they are labeled emotion systems or something else. “Included are systems that detect and respond to predators and other dangers, to sexual partners, to suitable food and drink, to safe shelter, and so on.” (Pg. 240 of LeDoux, Synaptic Self, 2002)

The bottom line as I see it: motivation is merely, primarily, behavior ordained by primitive neural structures performing their functions, with emotional feeling as a byproduct directing our higher cognitive resources to incentives/stimuli selected by the primitive functions. Let me know your thoughts….
You're welcome Margaret.
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  #8  
Unread May 16th, 2006, 02:25 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

Fred, I have said before that you are a smart person. I enjoy discussing ideas with others who are respectful and honest in their motivation. I don't worry too much about their IQ as long as they meet those requirements. I'd say every one in this forum is smart enough to have valuable ideas worth considering.

Unfortunately, your smart mind is largely controlled by the strong emotions of your ideology regarding atheism and morality. Your personality has formed around those strong emotions of ideological identity. You can not have a discussion that you can not eventually turn toward affirming your ideology and / or falsifying competing ones. You are compelled to see every person in a discussion as either an ally, whom you will exhalt - or a bitter enemy, to be humiliated for their heresy.

Ideology is not the same as ideas. Ideology is identity beliefs that are attached to very strong emotions and that have no inherent requirement to correspond to reality. The only value of non-ideological ideas is the relatively cool emotional value of their ability to accurately represent some reality.

Having any discussion with you requires either feeding your strong ideological emotions - or being attacked by them. Every time I have tried (discussing) I always end up with knots in my stomach. The ideas that I was interested in always become trampled in the dirt of your ideological battlefield.

I wish it was different - but I choose where in my life I compete. I do not compete with ideologues. I like ideas too much to debase them by using them to prove that I am more moral than someone else. Morality is exhibited with deeds, not words. My sense of morality requires that I respect others in a discussion, especially when I disagree with them. You make that impossible. Therefore you make discussion impossible.

I wish you luck on your mission but you need to find another enabler.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; May 16th, 2006 at 08:52 PM.
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  #9  
Unread May 17th, 2006, 08:42 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

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MM: . . . I choose where in my life I compete. I do not compete with ideologues. I like ideas too much to debase them by using them to prove that I am more moral than someone else. Morality is exhibited with deeds, not words. My sense of morality requires that I respect others in a discussion, especially when I disagree with them….
The way you’ve respected JimB implying charges of bigotry, or Carey with charges of being a fawning undergrad psych student, or me for being an ideologue?

Try not to think of all this in terms of competition, or in terms of winning and losing.

From what I know of your history, I can perhaps understand why you’re as sensitive as you are, but then we all have had our tribulations. The flaw in your “morality” is that in practice it’s exceedingly conditional—you say that you “respect others in a discussion [even when you] disagree with them,” but from what I’ve observed, whenever you feel that your own ideology/beliefs are being the least bit challenged/threatened, or you perceive that someone is behaving contrary to the dictates of that ideology, you automatically go into attack/accusation mode. Objectively review your posts and perhaps you’ll see the truth in what I’m saying . . . but then of course I may be completely wrong about all of this.
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Unread May 17th, 2006, 11:17 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

Yes, the expected response. When someone get's called on being a bigot the most clever defense is to say, "See, by calling me a bigot aren't you being bigoted?" It's the same with ideologues (another form of bigotry), as you so well demonstrate - they will interpret any disagreement with them (or even an objection to bringing ideology into the discussion) as being equally ideological. After all, I am complaining about your ideology and participating in a argument with you that is ideological - and so you win either way.

And that's why I get angry with ideologues injecting their mission into a discussion- there's really no way to prevent that from wrecking the discussion. It will always lead to a raising of the emotional stakes until everyone is compelled to either leave (like Alexandra) or become ideological themselves in defense. But, I understand. You are psychologically compelled to do that. You are addicted to the neorotransmitters generated by the public discussion of your ideology. You can not live for a day without getting that chemical hit - and the angrier you can make any detractors, the stronger that hit is.

You said,
Quote:
The flaw in your “morality” is that in practice it’s exceedingly conditional—you say that you “respect others in a discussion [even when you] disagree with them,” but from what I’ve observed, whenever you feel that your own ideology/beliefs are being the least bit challenged/threatened, or you perceive that someone is behaving contrary to the dictates of that ideology, you automatically go into attack/accusation mode.
What I actually said was,
Quote:
My sense of morality requires that I respect others in a discussion, especially when I disagree with them. You make that impossible. Therefore you make discussion impossible.
But, you knew that. Your accusation was to score points with others.

And, here we are again discussing who said what and why that was so nasty and, "doesn't that prove that your ideology is wrong". I imagine you're quite satisfied. As anyone can see, there is no defense from ideological attack in a discussion that doesn't hihjack the discussion - and that's why I get angry.

As far as what you know about my history I assure you you have no idea what you're talking about. I have no problem discussing it. I'd invite you to flesh out your innuendos to expose your ignorance but then we'd again be doing anything but discussing EP and you win again. Your willingness to bring my gender identity in as a weapon for your mission is proof enough of the lengths that ideologues are willing to go, to campaign for their ideology. Perhaps you thought your clever google search had given you some kind of napalm to use on me.

Did it not occur to you that if I didn't want anyone to know about my gender identity I could have simply used a fictitious name here? Gender identity does make for interesting discussions on its own (it is also part of evolutionary psychology) but it is definitely not a conversation I'd have with an ideologue.

It's becoming obvious that you have driven away anyone who has interesting things to say in this forum and wants to say them in a non-confrontational way. After this last exchange I can see that my days here are running short - so you will have eliminated yet another heretic. Too bad, the idea for this forum was a good one - and there were so many things I wanted to discuss.

But, enjoy your neurotransmitter hit, Fred. This is all about you now, as you so need it to be. Let's see what wonders your next post holds for us all - wonders that will show the world how clever you are and how your ideology represents ultimate truth in the universe.

Margaret
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