After class on Tuesday one thing that I kept turning over in my mind was that “people who never normally read a science essay will read a psych-neuro essay.” As the brain is the control center for all actions carried out by the body, neuropsychology is naturally the discipline to focus on when curious about human behavior. Even when people are unaware of their interest in neuropsychology and human behavior, headlines such as New Mind-Reading Device Lets Paralyzed People Type or The Brain Controls Our Ability to Stop Habits (see links below) will make their ears perk up immediately. Introspective curiosity is part of the human condition.
After thinking about this for a while I thought it might be interesting to ask some of my non psych oriented friends what their thoughts on psychology and neuroscience are. A couple of them immediately switched into exam mode and started memory-dumping the staple neuro words like neurons and cerebellum that they had heard in Intro Psych. One friend however became very excited and told me that he HAD to show me a clip from a 30 Rock episode that he had just watched called The Shower Principle (See link below). In this episode Alec Baldwin’s character Jack is talking to Tina Fey’s character Liz Lemon about “The Shower Principle” a concept which Jack claims is responsible for “moments of inspiration that occur when the brain is distracted from the problem at hand–for example, when you’re showering.” While Jack’s further explanation including specific pieces of neuro-anatomy may or may not be accurate, the phenomenon he is referring to is certainly observable in day to day life. This concept of “sudden cognitive inspiration” is something that I have wondered about before. Included in these occurrences is the classic “word on the tip of my tongue” problem; as soon as you stop trying to figure out what the word is, it comes to you. Is there observable brain activity behind this? Jack mentions that the new activity distracts one part of the brain so that another part–the one responsible for “sudden cognitive inspiration”– can come to the foreground. After discussing multiple intelligences and the specialization of different parts of the brain, I am wondering if the number of neurons firing across the connectome sometimes causes interference which is what causes these lapses in memory or innovative cognitive power. The different parts of the brain work so well together but are these sorts of “brain-farts” observable times when the brain and the connectome are simply overloaded?
As a brief aside, it is interesting to observe how the media portrays psychology and neuroscience. 30 Rock introduced a neuropsychological explanation for an experience which is widespread across our species. In general, maybe the media is cashing in on the quote from earlier in this post “people who never normally read a science essay will read a psych-neuro essay.” This “psych stuff” is captivating, it has observable implications which are aspects of every day life and so it is easy to draw an audience for this sort of thing. Not the main point of this post, but still something to think about.
New Mind-Reading Device Lets Paralyzed People Type: (http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/06/new-mind-reading-device-lets-paralyzed-people-type/)
The Brain Controls Our Ability to Stop Habits: (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252248.php#.UJJe5p_48VU.blogger)
30 Rock Episode Clip- The Shower Principle: