Saturday, February 6, 2010

Brain White Matter Connections for Intelligence and Creativity

[From Joel. Source of Brain Image] We're all familiar with the close associations that memories have that are stored in the brain. We have rapid access to words that rhyme, synonyms and antonyms. We have rapid and easy access to words that are associated with experiences in our lives. However, some researchers believe that the "white matter" (as opposed to the "gray matter") of our brains makes longer connections between various areas and controls intelligence and creativity. A crossword puzzle exercises the short gray matter connection. Here's a puzzle which exercises the white matter.

We have a significant amount of memory which deals with music. We have a significant amount of memory which deals with philosophy. Let's see if we can exercise the links between the two areas. Select an associated pair from music and philosophy. An example would be "Que Sera, Sera" and the concept of stoicism as advanced by Marcus Aurelius. Another would be "I want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old Dad" and the Freudian doctrine of psychology.

I found that having been immersed in preparing for this presentation for a month or so, there was a after effect or "habit." Picking up the mail the other day, I saw and heard a bluebird. Immediately, the song "Bluebird of Happiness" sprang to mind. Then the phrase "life is no abyss" from that song arrived. This was followed by Pascal's "Man constructs obstacles so that he cannot see that he is marching toward an abyss."


Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Joel for this new Topic (and for your recent presentation about it at the Philo Club here in The Villages, FL).

It neatly complements your earlier Originality or Lack Thereof.

Great to know at least a few of us old guys still have our gray AND WHITE matter working for us.

According to this "Age-related changes in the brain -- the appearance, starting around age 60, of 'white-matter lesions' among the brain's message-carrying axons -- significantly affect cognitive function in old age. White-matter lesions are small bright patches that show up on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. What's more, hypertension may account for some of this cognitive impact.

Ira Glickstein

CentralCoastRick said...

Just yesterday I think it was a friend sent me a very beautiful thought about growing old gracefully.

I sure wish I could remember what it was!

joel said...

When I made my presentation at our philosophy club, I asked the audience to demonstrate associative memory. For instance, the first thing that comes to mind when I say bird. Synonyms, rhyming words a seem to be closely connected to a given word. They are short range gray matter connections. People who have brain damage may speak nonsense using rhyming words or synonyms instead of the word they really want to use. They are not aware of this substitution. They hear the right word. I continued my presentation by asking for longer range associations that are not closely linked neurologically. I asked for an association that links both birds and pigs. One of the audience drew a big laugh from myself and the rest of the audience with "ham and eggs." It was a very creative association which probably exercised the white matter. I think the laugh was very interesting. One of the things that triggers a laugh is the unexpected and quirky. I wish I could repeat this as an experiment to see if there is consistency. I've tried a few pairs of words chosen randomly from the dictionary which I attempt to link together with a fantastic connection. But, without an unbiased audience it's hard to tell. My daughter laughs at everything I say and my wife thinks I'm nuts. -Joel

chrisandmeg said...

As Joel's daughter, I have to agree; I laugh at Dad all the time.

Stu Denenberg said...

When I remember the song that starts, "When you think of it, Life's a piece of shit..." from the movie, "The Life of Brian" the association is back to itself and becomes infinitely recursive until I smile and turn it off...

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks for your Comment Stu. It's good to have you back with us and please Comment some more.

I watched the video of the song you enjoyed so much, and the phrase that you remember seems at odds with the main theme, "Always look on the bright side of life!"

Of course, I've never been strung up on a cross with nails through my palms. Perhaps if that was my fate I would not think life had a bright side at all. Though I doubt I would use a word as mild as used in the song and in your comment.

(More recent versions have changed the line to "Life's a counterfeit" or "Life is hit or miss" which are even milder!)

Yet, MY LIFE, when I think of it, has been and for the most part is still pretty damned wonderful. Of course, as I said, I'm thinking about MY life. Your "mileage may vary" as they say.

As Max Ehrmann wrote in 1927:

"... You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;

"You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

"Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

"With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy."


Ira Glickstein said...

Megan (aka "chrisandmeg"): WELCOME to the Blog! Thanks for your Comment.

As Joel's daughter I am sure you can relate some hilarious stories about laughing at your Dad. And perhaps laughing with him as well. Let us in on his quirks and quiggles.

How about Joel's comment that his wife (your Mom) thinks he is "nuts"? Care to shed any light on that?

Ira Glickstein

PS: I wish my three daughters (and sons-in-law would join this Blog as well.

chrisandmeg said...

Thank you for the warm welcome, Ira!


"As Joel's daughter I am sure you can relate some hilarious stories about laughing at your Dad. And perhaps laughing with him as well. Let us in on his quirks and quiggles."

Oh, where to begin, where to begin...? I've dreamed of a day like this...oh, sweet, sweet payback!

Let me preface by saying that I really owe my sense of humor and sarcasm to Dad. So, he has only himself to blame. It's only natural, with talent like mine, that I should on rare occasion, find him amusing. There is something so satisfying about seeing someone so highly intelligent, fall down to earth with the rest of us minions now and then. ;-)

In all honesty, I'll always remember the days of my youth, sitting on the living room carpet with he-who-hung-the-moon, according to me, listening to Bill Cosby records. In our worst Dad Versus the Mutant Teenage Daughter years, humor was an ice breaker, a wound healer, and a place we had common ground to share when our worlds seemed so far apart.

So, here's the dirt you seek. My favorite all-time story was one from my youth, in the early 1970's, camping with the folks in Oregon. The three of us at a stream, fishing. Finding my casting not to his liking, Daddy took my pole and said that he would show me the "right" way. After much lengthy technical instruction (remind me to tell you about our driving lessons) and graceful arm flinging simulations, he was finally ready to demonstrate a real cast.

Now, I have no idea what on earth happened, but, when he outstretched his arm over his head and cast out the pole, the reel mechanism basically exploded into pieces. He stood there, the rod just hanging there a mess, in disbelief. Mom and I paused a moment, stunned, before falling down laughing. I shouted something like, "I don't think that's how you're supposed to do it, Dad!" He was suddenly classic Al Bundy, the dad-is-a-giant-tool sitcom dad. Loved it.

chrisandmeg said...


"How about Joel's comment that his wife (your Mom) thinks he is "nuts"? Care to shed any light on that?"

I'd be happy to! Mom's too sweet to say it outright, but she'd agree. She'll use words like "zany" and "special", and say things like, "That's your Dad for ya!" or, "Your know your Dad!", but we all know the truth.

My husband, Chris, on the other hand, doesn't hesitate to say, "Pops is crazy." at least once a day.

Mom gets pulled into all sorts of Dad's kooky capers, but she loves it. He made a little film (no sound, movie projector style, low budget) for me when I was away at Grandma's as a little kid. It opens with my Dad sitting before a bowl of Rice Krispies. After he pours the milk, it cuts to words on the screen that say, "Snap! Crackle! Pop!", and cuts back to Dad acting as though the noise is so loud, his head would explode, complete with hands covering his ears and facial expressions that would make any silent film maker proud. Finally, he breaks down and yells, "Shut UP!", which you read again in writing on the screen. He looks down at his bowl, where low and behold, a finger has slowly risen up out of the cereal. The finger starts beckoning him closer, and still closer, until all of a sudden, a steam of milk shoots up smack into his face. He looks into the camera with a classic, "Rats, foiled again" grimace, milk dripping from his face. The moral of the story, in words on the screen is, "Never say shut up to your Rice Krispies."

Finger courtesy of Mom, who was under a table, also supplying the milk fountain via a tube. Yep, he's crazy for sure, but a homesick kid and adoring wife couldn't want for more than that. :)

I'll conclude my tragically long post with this. I pick on him a lot (all good adult daughters are required to, we take a secret oath), but whether laughing at him or with him, crazy or not, he's the best Daddy and I wouldn't trade him. Well, most days. Is he unbelievably crabby with you guys too??? :)


Ira Glickstein said...

Chrisandmeg: Thanks for your insight on Joel's humor and some of his more "zany" antics.

I know him only from the Philo Club here in The Villages and this TVPClub Blog. We broadly agree on many issues and differ a bit on some.

You ask "Is he unbelievably crabby with you guys too???" Well, he can be a bit petulant at times, particularly when L-Minds spout nonsence, but far from "unbelievably so" :^)

I'd be interested in where your views fall in the L-Mind vs C-Mind spectrum, as well as on religion vs atheism?

Also, if you would like to be an Authorized Author on the Blog (and save me the trouble of Moderating your postings) please send an email to me at and I will have Google Blogger send you an invite.

Ira Glickstein

chrisandmeg said...

Hi Ira!

"Well, he can be a bit petulant at times, particularly when L-Minds spout nonsence, but far from "unbelievably so" :^)

I guess he saves it all for me, seeing as I have L-Mind tendencies. ;) If you think his petulant is good, ask him if he'll whine for you. It's the cutest thing EVER, and he gets anything he wants out of me and Mom when he does it. He mostly does it when he's hungry. Bring some dark chocolate to your next meeting and don't share, it might just bring it out of him... :)

"I'd be interested in where your views fall in the L-Mind vs C-Mind spectrum, as well as on religion vs atheism?

Oh boy! I'd say my views on everything and anything start with balance. One need only observe life itself for clues. Hot and cold. Sweet and sour. Flood and drought. Winter and Summer. Life itself is all about "this" tempered with "that". For me, this is an obvious, easy path to follow - I am lead by tangible example everywhere I look.

Liberals and Conservatives each lack balance by definition. They are extremes in a spectrum, and since this planet, here long before us, cannot exist that way, I don't think it's possible for humans and their societies. There has to be a change in direction to achieve balance, like the seasons. In politics, if you temper each extreme, you can achieve freedom AND discipline, independence AND compassion.

I vote the way I think is best for the tide we're in, and am not tied to a party. I don't think it's a team sport, and I think the two party system has fallen out of balance. I am 110% behind our President.

As to religion vs atheism. I could better answer by breaking it down to "theism vs atheism", because I think that's a more fair comparison; religion and faith are two different animals. I enjoy the balance between faith and atheism - philosophy. Seeking knowledge and questioning, admitting that we don't have the power to know everything that lurks in the universe and beyond, yet.

After that, I'd break it down to "church vs atheist club" or "religion vs non-religion", or "religion vs faith". Religion is just a group of like-minded people that organize, but faith is individual, and your own. Faith can come without instruction. People are born into their religion and taught by their parents. Faith can be there, whether you ponder belonging to a religion or not. I think the most religious people can be the most far removed from faith itself, that non-believers can be the most reverent, and that the most faithful can be without organized religion. In relation to balance, in religion, you can achieve more with numbers - say, help a community. Out of balance, with too much power, you find a religion that is corrupt, exclusionary, and infects government.

Personally, I appreciate the attributes of Pantheism (before it was popular with the green movement), Buddhism (there's your yin and yang), and Agnosticism (yep, the coward's way out!), but don't have a single religion or faith pinned down.

Dad could have answered your question for me much quicker. He'd say I'm a G*damn liberal tree hugging agnostic coward, but he loves me anyway, even though it's not easy. ;)

I look forward to your remarks, and I'll drop you an email so I can be an official person around these parts. But, I'm going to make myself scarce soon. I'll still keep my eye on you guys, but I hate to intrude on my Dad's space. As a parent he has to give so much - he needs something of his own! ;) And, I always hated it when he hung around with me and my friends as a teenager. He was such a square... ;-P

Here's hoping we can all find the calm in the middle of the seasaw. But, not TOO MUCH calm, either! ;)

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Megan for your Comments about your Dad. I have the highest opinion of the aspects he reveals in our interaction at the Philo Club and this Blog. You've illuminated more of his family side. The fact you are a confident, independent-minded, well-spoken and intelligent daughter is a credit to you (and of course your Mom and Dad).

My personal religious views are Pantheistic (in line with other Jews like Spinoza and Einstein). So, since Agnosticism is non-specific, we are 1/2 in agreement, and if I knew more about Buddhism we might be even closer. I see no conflict between my Pantheism and the fact my wife and I are members of the local Jewish congregation. Our daughters were Bat Mitzvah (as our granddaughters will be next year). They are all independent-minded about religion, and some will say they are Atheists - but definitely Jewish Athiests!

Great your political views are balanced between L- and C-minded which we need on this Blog. Other than Howard and Stu, who are moderately and slightly to the left, this Blog tends to list to the right. I want this to be a place where L- and C- and in-between can put forth strond, fact-based arguments, while remaining courteous and respecful.

As for President Obama, though I did not vote for him, I too am 100% in support of his postitive policies, such as highly increased use of unmanned air vehicles for strikes against Al Queda strongholds in Pakistan, the surge in Afghanistan, and approval of new nuclear power plants. I've stated in this Blog he was the most intelligent of the candidates for President and VP, as well as being the best speaker.

Don't worry about intruding on your Dad' space. Even if you "hated it when he hung around with me and my friends as a teenager" you are now both adults and you can hang around all you want. So, by all means send me an email ( and I will have Google Blogger send you an invite you can accept and become an Author here and save me the trouble of Moderating your Comments.

Ira Glickstein