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Evolutionary Significance of Creating Stories.

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  • Evolutionary Significance of Creating Stories.

    Hypothesis: The mental exercise of imaginative creation creates new neural pathways, or 'hard-wires' existing connexions, within the creator's brain. Therefore, does the resultant alteration of neuronal function and structure have a significant effect on the creator's personal development and hence behaviour? If so, does this altered behaviour affect reproductive inclination and fitness? And does the reading of imaginative fiction cause concomitant change in the reader, with corollary alteration in social behaviour?

    Discuss. 8O

  • #2
    I can't be bothered to reproduce. I'm too busy reading.
    \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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    • #3
      A contributor to a 70s issue of New Worlds did argue that reading (or writing) sf gave you brain cancer. See 'Government Study Confirms SF Cause of Cancer' (No. 217, Autumn 1978).

      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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      • #4
        Great topic, Perdix!

        Any new experience creates new ways of thinking and feeling, particularly when they become routinized. I wouldn't necessarily attribute it to brain re-wiring. Instead I think it is something much more organic.

        Anecdotally...Growing up, many of my friends who read any kind of speculative fiction were better in math than their peers, and many of us (I'll include myself in this one, though not the last) understood aspects of the social and cultural world much better than many of our peers. I certainly think what I read and how I read it contributed to (although it didn't create) many of my humanistic beliefs. I suspect it still does. Similarly, I have trouble with concrete, objective boundaries in almost anything, and I attribute much of this sensitivity to the same thing.

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        • #5
          Does creative activity and the stimulation caused by the consumption of 'art' have organic effects similar to those engendered by psychoactive drugs? - The subtler effects, I mean, minor restructuring at the biochemical/ neurotransmitter level and speed of conduction of action potentials along axons? Some CAT/ MRI studies must have been done on this?

          When I'm writing or 'visualising' or drawing something, I can feel my brain 'heating up' - it distinctly goes into a stepped-up level of metabolism. Pity it's such a tricky organ to study non-fatally!

          I'm not sure about cancer, Mr M, but Conrad once put me into a coma... :) Was 'A Cure for Cancer' a direct response to the idea of carcinogenic literature? :D

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          • #6
            8O So it's you who's been sending me all those Viagra ads. You don't need to bother, really.....
            \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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            • #7
              So, SF readers are more likely to be impotent.
              Ooo err, better check! (Pulls curtains)

              (Two minutes pass)

              Yup, I'm good. Phew...

              :lol: :lol: :lol:

              Comment


              • #8
                I dunno, but I wish I could dig up the link again... there was an actual study done that showed both reading and writing new things constantly helped prevent the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Alzheimer's is degenerative, right? From what I gather inactivity and a mentally sedentary lifestyle serve to accelerate mental degeneration (I saw that in my grandmother) so I'd say that any creative passtime would serve to slow the onset of Alzheimer's, even if it doesn't prevent it.

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                  • #10
                    But the neuroanatomical mechanisms - wouldn't it be fascinating to determine them? :roll: (rhetorical question!).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      This might interest folks (not too lengthy, I hope):
                      Murdoch novel reveals Alzheimer's

                      The last novel by the author Iris Murdoch reveals the first signs of Alzheimer's disease, experts say.

                      A team from University College London say their examination of works from throughout Dame Iris's career could be used to help diagnose others.

                      They found the structure and grammar of her novels was relatively unchanged, but her language was noticeably simpler in her last novel, 'Jackson's Dilemma'.

                      The study is published online by the journal Brain.

                      It is part of the team's on-going research into the effects of Alzheimer's on language.

                      "I had felt all along that there was something different about Iris's last novel";John Bayley, Iris Murdoch's husband.

                      Dame Iris was diagnosed with Alzheimer's aged 76, shortly after the publication of 'Jackson's Dilemma' in 1995.

                      Tests carried out in 1997 showed that she was losing a range of cognitive abilities including arithmetic, spelling, and word production and showed other signs associated with Alzheimer's.

                      The diagnosis was confirmed in a post mortem after her death in 1999.

                      Word types

                      Experts from UCL and the Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit compared 'Jackson's Dilemma' with 'Under the Net', her first published work, and 'The Sea, The Sea' which was written at the height of her career.

                      They analysed the texts by converting them all to a digital format and using specialised software to look at how frequently certain types of words were used.

                      The researchers say this measures how varied a writer's vocabulary is.

                      It also shows how frequently new word types are introduced.

                      The experts found that the smallest number of word-types occurred in 'Jackson's Dilemma' and the largest in 'The Sea, The Sea'.

                      New word types were also found to be introduced much more frequently in the two earlier novels.

                      The vocabulary used in 'Jackson's Dilemma' was also found to be the most "commonplace" and that of 'The Sea, The Sea' the most "unusual".

                      'Unique opportunity'

                      It may be expected that the signs of Dame Iris's illness became evident in her later works.

                      Many people who have Alzheimer's find it difficult to find the words they want, particularly less common words such as equanimity or discretion - but can still produce grammatically-correct sentences.

                      But the team behind the study said their findings could help improve current diagnostic tests for Alzheimer's.

                      Around three quarters of a million people in the UK are estimated to have Alzheimer's.

                      Dr Peter Garrard of UCL's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, who led the research, said: "Iris Murdoch was known to write only in longhand, with few revisions of passages, sending the completed longhand manuscripts to her publishers with little allowance for editorial interference.

                      "Her manuscripts thus offer a unique opportunity to explore the effects of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease on spontaneous writing, and raises the possibility of enhancing cognitive tests used to diagnose the disease, for example by comparing correspondence or diary entries collected over someone's life."

                      He added: "Alzheimer's is known to disrupt the brain's semantic system, but this can happen subtly before anyone has the remotest suspicion of intellectual decline.

                      "Intriguingly, Murdoch experienced an intense and unfamiliar feeling of writer's block during this period.

                      "It would appear that the disease was already beginning to disrupt her cognitive abilities, which may go some way to explaining why critics were disappointed with the strangely altered quality of her final novel."

                      John Bayley, Iris Murdoch's husband, said: "I had felt all along that there was something different about Iris's last novel.

                      "She seemed to have become a different kind of writer, and therefore a different kind of person.

                      "That personality change is something you see in the early stages of Alzheimer's."

                      "I felt sure that Peter Garrard would find something unusual in her writing."

                      Professor Clive Ballard, Director of Research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Language does become impaired in numerous subtle ways in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

                      "It remains to be established whether detailed analysis of written prose, when available across someone's lifespan, could be an aid to early diagnosis.

                      "Certainly on a more anecdotal level, changes in the characteristics of people's personal diary entries have been reported as a useful part of the clinical assessment."
                      Jack Kerouac's mental decline due to chronic alcoholism is also traceable in his writing.
                      \"...an ape reft of his tail, and grown rusty at climbing, who yet feels himself to be a symbol and the frail representative of Omnipotence in a place that is not home.\" James Branch Cabell

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                      • #12
                        Yeah, I heard this on the radio. The only problem I had was with the examples. Seemed to me she'd honed her prose over the years. There are a lot of other reasons why her last book could have read as it did.
                        This would probably be more interesting if we didn't know that Murdoch became ill. She was always very eccentric and if she didn't like people, you always knew it. I was at a Punch lunch many years ago where the two guests were Murdoch and K. Amis. Murdoch hated Amis and ignored him through the whole affair while John Bayley, down the other end of the table was making acid remarks about him. Very jolly, all in all, though Kingers didn't seem too happy. But then he never did. the old master of the Novel of Disappointment.

                        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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                        • #13
                          I thought 'The Green Man' was alright...slightly Garneresque Earth-mythologising with an almost Moorcockian deity dropping in for some existential chat. :roll: I was pissed off that the cat got done in, though. I do wish authors would stop using animals as 'consolation-prize casualties' for dramatic tension...it's a bit old hat :?

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                          • #14
                            Never read it. Couldn't stand the man. He couldn't stand me, either, to be fair. But then he couldn't stand almost everyone and I can stand most other people... :D
                            I keep thinking I ought to give him another go. See, I thought Lucky Jim was third rate and never could get over that and his enthusiasm for the equally awful writing of Ian Fleming. We were at odds almost from the beginning. I think his son's a much nice person, even if he has picked up, like Bron Waugh, a few of his dad's superficial old fartisms.

                            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Now Ian Fleming was crap. Serves him right for having such an expectorant name...

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