Turn off your DLPFC!

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(Mixed media in progress…)

I’ve been reading and listening to Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine How Creativity Works. I listened to it last summer with the hens in the forest. They weren’t hugely impressed with Jonah but I really like him so I bought his book too. Anyway, the bit I was re-listening to this weekend was about the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Rather than try, I’ll let Jonah explain it….

While the DLPFC has many talents, it’s most closely associated with impulse control. This is the bit of neural matter that keeps each of us from making embarrassing confessions, or grabbing food, or stealing from a store.”

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(after I heard him say this I highlighted it)

Sounds good, right? Well yes and no…. Most of the time it’s a good idea not to be too impulsive. But what if you’re learning to draw or paint or what if you just want to create a beautiful get well card? What if you want to write something interesting or design something that pleases you? Well, at times like that impulse control is your biggest critic and your biggest enemy. In all fairness it’s trying to protect you from something embarrassing – a silly drawing, an aspiration to write a book, a childish necklace – very scary possibilities.

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(….playing with disposable….)

Turns out the DLPFC is the last brain area to fully develop, that explains why small children have no problem throwing a tantrum in a crowded shop. It also explains why they love their art! No impulse control… no critic. The good news is Jonah tells us about a study where just asking the adult subjects to think of themselves as seven-year olds (and spend a little time writing as their seven-year old self) caused them then to score higher on creativity tasks.

I’m off to play…. Mairead.

P.S. it’s Sunday afternoon as I write ✓

2 thoughts on “Turn off your DLPFC!

  1. I’ve listened to the audio book and I must say this finding on the DLPFC seems very true. Whenever I’m in a mild sleep, I always get a burst of creative ideas. Like, always. Right now, I m trying to find a way or ways to turn off my DLPFC when I m awake so I can create on the go. For example writing a novel. Perhaps that s what stimulant drugs do for artists who use them. But I dont wanna take that path. Any suggestions on this?

    1. Yep there’s a few things I do… sitting on the back of a motorbike watching clouds and trees flow by always fills me with ideas; sitting at the kitchen table tearing and gluing magazine paper onto a canvas with no expectation or judgement of the results; walking in nature, listening to the birds.
      Also, in the book, Lehrer tells the story of the monk who was given a puzzle to solve but couldn’t until the researcher told him focus wasn’t needed, relaxation was needed. As the monk had a very good meditation practice he was very well able to focus but he was also very well able to relax and so he did relax and so solved the puzzle. The relaxation increases alphawaves and leads to insights.
      You might like to apply relaxation to the question to yourself, ‘How can I find ways to turn off my DLPFC?” and just listen without judgement, as an interested observer. And finally, spend some time as a seven year old! What did you love to do as a seven year old?
      All the best to you.

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