Thoughts today were inspired by reading Steven Johnson’s book
“Where Good Ideas Come From”
Would you say that your brain is more often disorganized than not…or, does it proceed from one thought to the next in a methodical, organized, planned and sequential order?
What is your instant response to the above question? Be honest here. You at least have a rough grasp of how your thinking process unfurls. Now, hold onto that answer.
Turns out, the neural networks in our brains go though oscillation cycles. One of these is the phase-lock state and this occurs when the neurons in our brain fire in a synchronized fashion. In the phase-lock mode, the brain “executes an established plan or habit” and thoughts proceed in a sequential, orderly fashion. The brain also goes through cycles of what is called chaos or noise; this is where the neurons fire out of sync.
Robert Thatcher is a brain scientist at the University of South Florida and wanted to see if there was any correlation between I.Q. and the oscillation cycles of phase-lock and noise in brains. He did a study on dozens of children and found that some of the Children had longer periods of noise and other children had a tendency to remain longer in the phase-lock state.
When Thatcher compared the brain-wave results with the Children’s I.Q. scores, a direct correlation emerged. What he found was that the longer the child’s brain remained in the noise or chaos state, the higher the I.Q. The children who spent a longer time in the phase-lock state actually had comparatively lower I.Q scores.
Researchers are beginning to see that the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are. The longer your brain is able to reside in the disorganized mode, the more able it is to combine different ideas, to make novel associations, to learn new things from disparate data, to strategize on how to respond to a changed situation etc; this process occurs less often in the more organized brain state. Smarter brains simply remain in the chaos phase slightly longer than average or dull brains. Now this is fascinating (and counterintuitive too, as Johnson notes) and I LOVE counterintuitive!!! One would think that a more methodical thought processing would result in better, more robust and accurate thoughts.
My humble, (potentially faulty) assessment of this conundrum: It would seem that in a disorganized/chaotic brain state, the brain would have greater access to a wider, more diverse pool of thoughts zipping about. Thus, the probability of fusing one thought to another and discovering a potentially new, useful concept or innovation would be more likely.