There is nothing more exciting than when the brain through the activity of the 5 senses kindles autobiograhpical memory setting the mind afire! Maybe you’ve experienced this on vacation at the ocean when your senses are awoken while taking a walk on the beach and a great idea for work pops up or a solution to a recalcitrant family problem emerges. Or maybe you have experienced your senses going “dead” as you are pulled from one chaotic environment to the next, overhwelmed and on autopilot?
Did you know that our sensory systems and memory systems are intimately linked? So much so that the same regions of the brain that are activated when we sense something are activated when we remember it? Or that memories aren’t iconic snapshots of what happened that are stored in some part of the brain to be taken out when we feel sentimental? In fact a memory is distributed througout the brain and is used actively as a reconstruction of what is happening know. It helps us be more in the present but it comes from the past. But wait! What did you say? You don’t know what I’m talking about? But perhaps I’ve peaked your interest.
One place to find out about exciting discoveries in neuroscience is the “Brain Science Podcast”. Host Ginger Campbell takes her listeners on journeys that excite the mind and invigorate new ideas. I recently had the pleasure of composing the new theme music for the BSP show and it is going to air in it’s entirety in the next podcast. In the meantime you can listen to it here:
The process of composing and producing a song has a lot of similarities with how the brain uses memory and the senses to create experience for us humans. In the best case scenario we start with some well articulated musical score of the past (memory) and combine it with players from the present (5 senses) and we end up moving toward a future sound that is something more than what is written on the page or that could have been improvised without suggestion. Joining me on the song “Mindfire” are Sophia Cotraccia on violin and Hank Roberts on cello. I laid down the simmering drum and bass track and then let them get to cooking up some sounds that remind me of a brain-mind-self-other symphony!
My favorite part of the song is when we reach the bridge. Hank and Sophia really get to improvising and producing sounds that add layers to the basic theme. I think musical moments that synchronize the old with the new are most interesting. Playing in time together establishes the foundation off of which new forms emerge. This is familiar ground for me. As a psychotherapist I work with clients within a structured protocol (EMDR) and in most cases after establishing a rhythm we stayed tuned in to each other while observing where the clients brain needs to go. We can only know that things are “out of sync” by having established a predictable pattern that binds the relationship together. Out of this relationship creativity can flow and unexpected resources emerge. That predictable beat can be the difference between creativity and the chaos that can emerge when there is no shared pulse to stay tuned in to.
Ginger Campbell has reached that kind of groove with the Brain Science Podcast. Her featured guests range from renowned (and some of my favorite) neuroscientists, like Antonio Damasio, to attachment and mindfulness researcher Daniel Siegel, all way over to philosophy of mind with Thomas Metzinger, among many others. When you blend these different minds and their lines of research, the “music” that is consciousness, begins to play. So click on the BSP logo up top and see what is in store for you there. I’d love to hear what it inspires in your own life. Maybe that walk down the beach or to the grocery store will be a little more interesting. Maybe the episode on aging and memory will inspie you to pick up that instrument and play again. It might just light a fire in your mind!