A Disease That Allowed Torrents of Creativity
April 8, 2008 | New York Times | Sandra Blakeslee
If Rod Serling were alive and writing episodes for “The Twilight Zone,” odds are he would have leaped on the true story of Anne Adams, a Canadian scientist turned artist who died of a rare brain disease last year.
Trained in mathematics, chemistry and biology, Dr. Adams left her career as a teacher and bench scientist in 1986 to take care of a son who had been seriously injured in a car accident and was not expected to live. But the young man made a miraculous recovery. After seven weeks, he threw away his crutches and went back to school.
According her husband, Robert, Dr. Adams then decided to abandon science and take up art. She had dabbled with drawing when young, he said in a recent telephone interview, but now she had an intense all-or-nothing drive to paint.
“Anne spent every day from 9 to 5 in her art studio,” said Robert Adams, a retired mathematician. Early on, she painted architectural portraits of houses in the West Vancouver, British Columbia, neighborhood where they lived.
In 1994, Dr. Adams became fascinated with the music of the composer Maurice Ravel, her husband recalled. At age 53, she painted “Unravelling Bolero” a work that translated the famous musical score into visual form.
Unbeknown to her, Ravel also suffered from a brain disease whose symptoms were identical to those observed in Dr. Adams, said Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist and the director of the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Ravel composed “Bolero” in 1928, when he was 53 and began showing signs of his illness with spelling errors in musical scores and letters.
“Bolero” alternates between two main melodic themes, repeating the pair eight times over 340 bars with increasing volume and layers of instruments. At the same time, the score holds methodically to two simple, alternating staccato bass lines.
‘Bolero’ is an exercise in compulsivity, structure and perseveration,” Dr. Miller said. It builds without a key change until the 326th bar. Then it accelerates into a collapsing finale.
Dr. Adams, who was also drawn to themes of repetition, painted one upright rectangular figure for each bar of “Bolero.” The figures are arranged in an orderly manner like the music, countered by a zigzag winding scheme, Dr. Miller said. The transformation of sound to visual form is clear and structured. Height corresponds to volume, shape to note quality and color to pitch. The colors remain unified until the surprise key change in bar 326 that is marked with a run of orange and pink figures that herald the conclusion.
Ravel and Dr. Adams were in the early stages of a rare disease called FTD, or frontotemporal dementia, when they were working, Ravel on “Bolero” and Dr. Adams on her painting of “Bolero,” Dr. Miller said. The disease apparently altered circuits in their brains, changing the connections between the front and back parts and resulting in a torrent of creativity.
“We used to think dementias hit the brain diffusely,” Dr. Miller said. “Nothing was anatomically specific. That is wrong. We now realize that when specific, dominant circuits are injured or disintegrate, they may release or disinhibit activity in other areas. In other words, if one part of the brain is compromised, another part can remodel and become stronger.”
Thus some patients with FTD develop artistic abilities when frontal brain areas decline and posterior regions take over, Dr. Miller said.
An article by Dr. Miller and colleagues describing how FTD can release new artistic talents was published online in December 2007 by the journal Brain. FTD refers to a group of diseases often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, in that patients become increasingly demented, Dr. Miller said. But the course and behavioral manifestations of FTD are different.
In the most common variant, patients undergo gradual personality changes. They grow apathetic, become slovenly and typically gain 20 pounds. They behave like 3-year-olds in public, asking embarrassing questions in a loud voice. All along, they deny anything is wrong.
Two other variants of FTD involve loss of language. In one, patients have trouble finding words, Dr. Miller said. When someone says to the patients, “Pass the broccoli,” they might reply, “What is broccoli?”
In another, PPA or primary progressive aphasia, the spoken-language network disintegrates. Patients lose the ability to speak.
All three variants share the same underlying pathology. The disease, which has no cure, can progress quickly or, as in the case of Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, who announced his retirement last fall because of an FTD diagnosis, over many years.
Dr. Adams and Ravel had the PPA variant, Dr. Miller said.
From 1997 until her death 10 years later, Dr. Adams underwent periodic brain scans that gave her physicians remarkable insights to the changes in her brain.
“In 2000, she suddenly had a little trouble finding words,” her husband said. “Although she was gifted in mathematics, she could no longer add single digit numbers. She was aware of what was happening to her. She would stamp her foot in frustration.”
By then, the circuits in Dr. Adams’s brain had reorganized. Her left frontal language areas showed atrophy. Meanwhile, areas in the back of her brain on the right side, devoted to visual and spatial processing, appeared to have thickened.
When artists suffer damage to the right posterior brain, they lose the ability to be creative, Dr. Miller said. Dr. Adams’s story is the opposite. Her case and others suggest that artists in general exhibit more right posterior brain dominance. In a healthy brain, these areas help integrate multisensory perception. Colors, sounds, touch and space are intertwined in novel ways. But these posterior regions are usually inhibited by the dominant frontal cortex, he said. When they are released, creativity emerges.
Dr. Miller has witnessed FTD patients become gifted in landscape design, piano playing, painting and other creative arts as their disease progressed.
Dr. Adams continued to paint until 2004, when she could no longer hold a brush. Her art, including “An ABC Book of Invertebrates,” a rendering of the mathematical ratio pi, an image of a migraine aura and other works, is at two Web sites: members.shaw.ca/adms and memory.ucsf.edu/Art/gallery.htm.
Spiritism: Bridging Spirituality and Health
A 33-minute documentary film. Released January, 2008
Produced and Directed by Emma Bragdon, PhD. Edited by Anne Macksoud
20 to 40 million Brazilians make use of Spiritist Centers because the therapies are so effective—two centers report that more than 60% of those with cancer find Spiritist therapies measurably very beneficial, 90% of those suffering from depression and/or addiction who use the therapies return to normal life. We invite you to contemplate if these approaches can help our ailing health care system.
This ground-breaking film is designed to stimulate discussion on the spiritual dimension that is missing in our current health care delivery system, and what Brazilian Spiritist Centers and hospitals can offer us in that regard. The film is valuable for reflecting on cross-cultural studies, integrative and complementary medicine, religion, shamanism, and spiritual healing. One may choose to view the new film, created for English audiences, with Spanish, Portuguese or French subtitles. A study guide to help facilitate discussion and further study will soon be available.
|Daniel Benor, MD|
|Aristedes, Fulni-O leader|
What will you see?
Practical details of spiritual healing in Spiritist Centers and hospitals in Brazil and the USA are revealed. You meet Spiritist doctors, leaders and patients who illuminate how Spiritist Therapies complement allopathic medicine. [wraparound photo identified as, “Daniel Benor, MD”] You witness the secretive, gentle process of releasing mental patients from obsessions. You see a form of laying-on-of-hands Spiritists use to help patients heal from degenerative diseases, addiction and depression.
Provocative scenes of the Fulni-O Indians of Brazil are woven throughout the film. They have cultivated their ability to be highly effective healers through communion with Spirit and Gaia, the intelligence of the Earth itself. [wraparound photo identified as, “Aristedes, Fulni-O leader] Although not formally connected to Spiritism, shamanic practices are seminal to all forms of Spiritualism and Spirituality.
What is a Spiritist?
Spiritism began in France in the 1860’s, through the writings of an academic, Allan Kardec. Since then, those who studied his books, Spiritists, developed unique ways to cultivate spiritual evolution in forms that are appropriate for contemporary life. The Spiritist way of life is ecumenical and based on the following beliefs:
* God is the Supreme Intelligence, and ultimate Creator
* We live many lifetimes, in and out of the body (reincarnation)
* Every action we make, every thought we have, causes a reaction (karma)
* The purpose of these sequential lives is to increase our compassion and wisdom
* The fastest path to spiritual evolution is practicing self-awareness, manifesting the God self within, prayer, communion, and charity towards others.
* Christ is a model of the way to live one’s life
* Those people who have innate gifts of healing and intuition can harness them for the well-being of others through classroom study and supervised internships
* There are benevolent Spirits who are available to help us
All activities at the Spiritist Centers are free. Centers are supported by donations—not church or government. There is no priesthood, nor ritual ceremony. These are educational and charitable organizations, not churches. This path does not conflict with any religious affiliations one might have. It is by no means voodoo. Many see it as a revitalization of Christian principles.
What is like this in North American culture that is familiar?
Think of a combination between a personal growth center, a free clinic, a school to cultivate the highest human potential through discipline and supervision, a social gathering place for people of all ages, a hospice, a prayer group composed of people of all religious backgrounds, and a professional group of practitioners of Energy Medicine—all rolled into one.
For more info and film clips go to: www.spiritismfilm.com
Copies of DVDs may be purchased by phone through Enfield Distribution. Phone: 603-632-7377. Cost: $24.95 plus S&H. Or, order at a secure site online: http://www.createspace.com/243118.
It is the second in our series on Energy Medicine.
The first film, “I Do Not Heal, God is the One Who Heals: A Tribute to John of God” revealed the inner workings of John of God’s healing sanctuary in Brazil.
The next film, our third in the series, will share the exciting new field of using bioelectrical devices for healing. The best of these create some of the same effects as spiritual healing, i.e. they diagnose and target specific areas in need of healing, then simulate the transmission of a healer’s energy vibrations. Some of these bioelectrical devices have been in use for decades in Russia, Europe and Brazil—with full endorsement of Medical and governmental authorities. Recognition of the effectiveness of these modes of treatment is just now coming into the purview of the USA.
Can you help us? We are $14,000. short of our budget for completing the current film on Spiritism. If you value the work we are doing and are drawn to help, please send your tax-deductible donation made out to the “Marion Institute”, with a note designating it for “Energy Medicine Films”. Send it to the Marion Institute, 3 Barnabas Road, Marion, MA 02738. Donations can also be made online with credit cards at the secure site of the Marion Institute. Click here then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Donate Now”. Because of a challenge grant we received in 2007, each dollar you donate will be worth $2 to us. Your contribution of $7,000 will give us the $14,000. we need.
Contact Emma Bragdon,PhD. the Producer, at her email address: EBragdon@aol.com. She makes her home in Central Vermont. She is the Director of Spiritual Alliances, LLC. The website, www.emmabragdon.com will show you the various activities the company offers—including presentations in the USA, guided tours to visit John of God and other Spiritist Centers in the USA and Brazil. They also oversee research in Brazil.
Randy Pausch Lecture:
Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
I am flattered and embarrassed by all the recent attention to my "Last Lecture." I am told that, including abridged versions, over six million people have viewed the lecture online. The lecture really was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful. But rest assured; I'm hardly unique. [watch here].
The revolution will not be pasteurized:
Inside the raw-milk underground
April 2008 | Nathanael Johnson | Harper’s
Between 1919, when only a third of the milk in Massachusetts was pasteurized, and 1939, when almost all of it was, the number of outbreaks of milk-borne disease fell by nearly 90 percent. Indeed, pasteurization is part of a much broader security cordon set up in the past century to protect people from germs. Although milk has a special place on the watch list (it’s not washable and comes out of apertures that sit just below the orifice of excretion), all foods are subject to scrutiny. The thing that makes our defense against raw milk so interesting, however, is the mounting evidence that these health measures also could be doing us great harm. [read more].
Alternatives to eBay for the eco set
New online marketplaces offer everything from home biodiesel processors to reclaimed lumber
April 2008 | Plenty Magazine | Emily Waltz
Last year when green architect, Brad Hardin, began designing a Kansas City middle school to be built with reused building materials, he found himself spending as much time digging through salvage yards as he did designing the school. He drove around the countryside looking for old barns, sifted through dark warehouse basements and befriended demolition crews. Finding the right reclaimed materials—floors, doors, support beams, windows—for a large construction project is like putting together a wardrobe at a thrift shop. The painstaking experience led Hardin to start an online eBay-style marketplace to help buyers and sellers of reclaimed building materials find each other. [read more].
Did you know / ShiFt Happens 2.0
“I put together a PowerPoint presentation with some [hopefully] thought-provoking ideas,” Karl Fisch – a teacher at Highland Ranch in Colorado - writes on his blog The Fischbowl. “I was hoping by telling some of these "stories" to our faculty, I could get them thinking about - and discussing with each other - the world our students are entering. To get them to really think about what our students are going to need to be successful in the 21st century, and then how that might impact what they do in their classrooms… I wanted them to hopefully think about this for their own classrooms, and then hold the conversation with each other over the next few days and hopefully weeks and months and...”
That was March, 2007. A little more than a year later, Did You Know 2.0 / ShiFt Happens is now online at YouTube – and has enjoyed more than 1,616,000 views. The conversation continues... [watch here].
A Disease That Allowed Torrents of Creativity
April 8, 2008 | New York Times | Sandra Blakeslee
When artists suffer damage to the right posterior brain, they lose the ability to be creative. Dr. Adams’s story is the opposite. Her case and others suggest that artists in general exhibit more right posterior brain dominance. In a healthy brain, these areas help integrate multisensory perception. Colors, sounds, touch and space are intertwined in novel ways. But these posterior regions are usually inhibited by the dominant frontal cortex. When they are released, creativity emerges. [read more].
Going organic, and close to home
Mattapoisett store offers locally grown
April 6, 2008 | The Boston Globe | Paul E. Kandarian
"Two years ago, the Marion Institute was doing a seminar on global warming and one component involved food," Margie Baldwin said one morning in the store as her granddaughter, 2-year-old Isabella, was wandering about looking for, and finding, organic lollipops. "More than 100 people showed up for that alone. It showed us people really cared about where their food comes from. They wanted to eat locally and seasonally." [read more]
SMS technology helps coffee farmers in Africa
“There's a tendency to think that, as a free entry-level texting solution, FrontlineSMS is only relevant for smaller, grassroots non-profits who are most likely to lack the funds or in-house expertise to develop their own solutions. Over the past couple of years I've begun to see otherwise.” Case in point, a coffee project being run by the UN. Not the suited, New York-based UN you see on TV, but a field-based team of UN staff and volunteers who simply wanted to try something. All they needed was a simple, low-cost tool which allowed them to rapidly prototype their idea. [read more].
“Man - despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments, owes his existence to a 6-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains."