lunes, 23 de agosto de 2010

THE BIOLOGY OF A CREATIVE MIND

"Perhaps the coming together
of our insights about the world
around us and the world inside us
is a satisfying feature of the
recent evolution in science."

Ilya Prigogine

Is there tangible biological science behind creative mind? Where do mind and brain meet? Is there really a "web of consciousness?" Is there a physical element to mind that controls the way consciousness acts upon the brain? Is there a physical basis for intuition or insight? Yes to all of the above.


Two men, a mathematician and a doctor, feel they have found the answer to those questions. The answers they have found are not only intriguing, but worthy of consideration.

Roger Penrose, renowned mathematician and Dr. Stuart Hameroff, anesthesiologist, believe they have found the biology of mind. It is in the Microtubules. Microtubules (MTs) are the molecular filament or cytoskeleton of the neurons. These superfine lattice-like proteins provide the coding interface between consciousness and the brain.

In his book Shadows of the Mind, Penrose gives a compelling argument to support the theory that quantum coherence, made possible by the microtubulin cytoskeleton of neuronal cells, is the necessary ingredient to transform consciousness into the electro-chemical process exhibited in the brain.

Stuart Hameroff described microtubules as, "cylindrical protein polymers interconnected by cross bridging proteins (MAPs), which structurally and dynamically organize functional activities in living cells, including synaptic regulation inside of the brain's neurons. They are the most prominent features of the cytoskeleton, which is at once 1) structural scaffolding of cells, 2) transport system and 3) onboard computer." The image above shows how microtubules are exhibited in cell structure.

According to physicist D. V. Nanopoulos, "MTs and DNA/RNA are unique cell structures that possess a code system. It seems that the MTs code system is strongly related to a kind of "Mental Code" in the following sense. The MTs periodic para-crystalline structures make them able to support a superposition of coherent quantum states, as it has been recently conjectured by Hameroff and Penrose, representing an external or mental order, for sufficient time needed for efficient quantum computing. Then the quantum superposition collapses spontaneously/dynamically through a new, string-derived mechanism for collapse proposed recently by Ellis, Mavromatos, and myself. At the moment of collapse, organized quantum exocytosis occurs, i.e. the simultaneous emission of neurotransmitter molecules by the synaptic vesicles, embedded in the "firing zone" of the pre-synaptic vesicular grids."

The most important aspects of Penrose's argument is that the problem of non-locality is solved by including MTs into the equation. The problem of the non-locality of thought is the basis of intuition and insight. Anyone, who has had an insight or an intuitive answer to a problem, knows these thoughts appear spontaneously as complete gestalts. Whole ideas are condensed into a singular understanding, which then has to be translated into words, if it is to be communicated.

It is the translation into verbal format that often renders an insight indescribable. A global understanding does not lend itself easily to linear modeling. In fact, it was the very idea that mathematicians were able to "understand" their theories before they were completed, that led Penrose to his theory. He believes this is what separates man and his consciousness from machines. Machines are computable only and consciousness has the capacity for insight or non-computable creative thought.

One of the leading arguments in artificial intelligence is that with the adoption of neural networking programs, as opposed to the binary programming of conventional computers, artificial intelligence will someday rival human intelligence. Penrose disagrees and argues that the very act of intuition itself is beyond the scope of any machine and will always remain so. Machines run on programs, and no matter how complex or sophisticated the program, or electronic and mechanical circuitry, a program cannot experience insight. It is the microtubules that allow insight to be translated into the electrochemical basis of neurotransmitters, that interact at the synaptic level and allow for spontaneous creative thought.

We have now found the plausible biological underpinning for creative mind. We are gleaning a scientific understanding of the substructure of the brain/mind at the quantum level. Though knowing this may not help you to produce your next creative solution, having the knowledge and understanding that the mind and brain are intricately combined and interdependent, does add credibility to the biology of creative mind. It is our belief and understanding in what we do that fuels our ability to forge new ground and succeed in seeking new horizons.

Essentially, a creative mind has no boundaries and searches wherever necessary, as guided by insight, to find the solution to a problem. This includes an elegant expression of art, literature or music, novel and unique approaches to scientific invention, as well as mundane daily problem solving. We think it important that everyone knows where the frontiers of science are heading in relationship to the mind/brain issue. Much of this is still conjecture, as always, until science has developed the sophisticated instrumentation and experiments to prove its hypotheses. Great minds are utilizing their creative abilities to pose the right questions and pursue the relevant answers. We all benefit by the dialogue of discovery, and our understanding of who we are and where our potentials lie are expanded in the process.

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