Neural Correlates of Spontaneity

Boredom can be blissful at times. It pushes you in solitude. And in solitude, great ideas can happen. A month ago I was sitting alone under a similar spell of boredom. My mind wandered from thought to thought. And from mundane thoughts I started thinking about motor skills. I was reminded that how once I used to read about research job advertisements in Danish universities. Most of the jobs were very interesting. And some of those interesting jobs were about developing mathematical models to understand human motor mechanism. Largely, they were about applying machine learning to characterize one aspect or the other about motor skills and mechanisms.

Anyhow, the mind immediately flashed with the idea of understanding between the minds and brains of how skilled and unskilled people worked as they worked on their feat. There is a vivid difference between how a skillful batsman makes strokes and how an unskilled newbie stumbles across the wicket. In most cases, while the skilled batsman plays his strokes, the unskilled can appear utterly confused, baffled and nervous.

Similar observations can be made about other feats. Consider vehicle driving for an instance. A skilled driver spontaneously drives his car. Without even thinking about the job of driving, he steers, accelerates, switches gears, makes turns, applies brakes and honks. And while doing all of this, he sometimes also does many other things simultaneously, such as replacing a cassette in a car, handing a bottle of Coca-Cola to the person sitting beside him, and talks to the person sitting next to him while making a good deal of eye contact. And when all of this is done, it appears that the driver does not have to do any conscious effort at all.

An inexperienced driver, however, can be nervous about almost every experience of driving the car. He will make mistakes about almost everything ranging from turning the wheel to switching the gear. And in doing all of this he may not only appear himself confused to any person sitting next to him, the whole vehicle may appear baffled and whimsically lurching and hopping to any outside viewer.

Similar observations can be made about other feats about skilled and unskilled people, such as good speakers versus inexperienced ones and seasoned computer game players versus amateurs.

The idea then is to study where the experience is correlated in the brain. This is to say that to study what changes happen in the chemistry of a person’s brain as he acquires experience about a particular feat. Where does spontaneity come from? And above all, where is it correlated in the brain.

This can be a tremendous project. A possible course of action could be to acquire the brain activity of skilled versus unskilled persons using devices such as EEG, PET, MRI and fMRI. And then to try to find the correlates of spontaneity in the brain.

Photo by Steve A Johnson

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CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Neural Correlates of Spontaneity by Psyops Prime is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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