Actual Freedom ~ Frequently Flogged Misconceptions
Frequently Flogged Misconceptions
Imagination is Essential
RESPONDENT: I have many questions, but would like
to start with one which I find most pressing. You wrote how the imagination is no longer active in your brain and that if you were to draw a
picture of a cow you would not be able to imagine it, but would just start drawing and gradually it would take form on paper. But from my
observations, thought requires mental visual imagery, i.e.; in order to write this letter I am graphically visualising mental concepts and
visually recalling data relevant to what I wish to convey, before forming the sentences I type.
RICHARD: Okay ... when I start a sentence I have no means of knowing in advance what will
transpire, let alone how it will end. All I need to know is the topic and the subject matter unfolds of its own accord. I do have a reliable
and repeatable format and style, which has developed over the years, so it is not an ad hoc or chaotic meandering.
It is all very easy.
RESPONDENT: I am a designer by profession.
RICHARD: I used to make a living as a practising artist (as well as being a qualified art
teacher) so I can relate to your profession more than just a little bit.
RESPONDENT: Could you please elaborate on how the brain can think
without visually imaging, or perhaps I have misunderstood what you mean? Your time is most appreciated.
RICHARD: Oh, no ... you have not misunderstood at all. You must be referring to this
• [Richard]: ‘The entire imaginative/intuitive faculty has vanished. I literally cannot
visualise, form images, envision, ‘see in my mind’s eye’, envisage, picture, intuit, feel, fall into a reverie, daydream or in any way,
shape or form imaginatively access anything other than directly apprehending what is happening just here right now. I could not form a mental
picture of something ‘other’ if my life depended upon it. I literally cannot make images ... whereas in my earlier years ‘I’ could get
a picture in ‘my mind’s eye’ of ‘my’ absent mother, wife, children and so on ... or the painting ‘I’ was going to paint, or the
coffee-table ‘I’ was going to build, or the route ‘I’ was going to take in ‘my’ car or whatever. If I were to close my eyes and
‘visualise’ now, what happens is the same velvety-smooth darkness – as looking into the infinite and eternal space of the universe at
night – that has been the case for all these years now. I cannot visualise, imagine, conceptualise ... when I recall my childhood, my young
manhood, my middle ages or yesterday it is as if it were a documentary on television but with the picture turned off (words only) or like
reading a book of someone else’s life (...) I can intellectually know what a cow is like in that I can draw a reasonable facsimile; yet as I
am drawing I cannot visualise what the finished drawing will be like ... it becomes apparent as the drawing progresses’.
The brain thinks perfectly well without ‘visually imaging’ ... much, much better than
any ‘I’ can do. It all started over 20 years ago when the ‘I’ who was made a living as an artist ... ‘my’ greatest work came when
‘I’ disappeared and the painting painted itself in what is sometimes known as an ‘aesthetic experience’. This is the difference
between art and craft – and ‘I’ was very good as a craftsman – but craft became art only when ‘I’ was not present. All art is
initially a representation and, as such, is a reflection funnelled by the artist so that he/she can express what they are experiencing in
order to see for themselves – and show to others – what is going on ‘behind the scenes’ as it were. However, when one is fully
engrossed in the act of creating art – wherein the painting paints itself – the art-form takes on a life of its own and ceases to be a
representation during the event. It is its own actuality. One can only stand in amazement and wonder – which is not to negate the very
essential patiently acquired skills and expertise – and this marvelling is what was experienced back when I was a normal person.
It was this magical way of creativity that led ‘me’ into this whole investigation of life, the
universe and what it is to be a human being. ‘I’ desired to live my whole life like these utter moments of artistic creation. ‘I’
wanted my life to live itself just like the paintings painted themselves and consequently here I am now ... and what I am (what not who) is
the sense organs: this seeing is me, this hearing is me, this tasting is me, this touching is me, this smelling is me, and this thinking is me
... this is a direct experiencing of the actual in all its pristine freshness.
Whereas ‘I’, the identity, am inside the body: looking out through ‘my’ eyes as if looking
out through a window, listening through ‘my’ ears as if they were microphones, tasting through ‘my’ tongue, touching through ‘my’
skin, smelling through ‘my’ nose, and thinking through ‘my’ brain ... which is an indirect experiencing of the actual (through a
translucent veneer of what is called ‘reality’). As the perfection of the purity of the actual is inaccessible, the intuitive/imaginative
facility is required to enhance experience ... an ersatz picture, in other words.
An aesthetic experience is somewhat akin to a pure consciousness experience (PCE).
RICHARD: If one is going to accept the status-quo for what it is and ‘make
the best of a bad situation’ then such concentrated and focussed effort as described above would probably be the better way to go. However,
the way freedom works is this simple:
Back when I used to be able to visualise, what would happen is that it is all mapped out, planned
in advance, and all that was left was a ‘colouring-in-by-numbers’ style of painting and/or drawing and/or whatever. All the creativity was
confined to mental-emotional imagery department – a dream-like fantasy – which rarely, if ever, translated into pen and paper or paint and
canvas ... with the resultant frustration in being unable to manifest the vision into actuality. The main reason was that the mental picture
was not constrained by the physical medium and thus compromises inevitably creep in, even early in the piece. One is then left with trying to
force actuality into fitting the fancy ... with less than desirable results. What I discovered, when the ‘painting painted itself’, was
that actuality ruled the roost, as it were, and magically manifested perfection ... such as to leave me, as I remarked (further above)
standing in amazement and wonder, marvelling at this magical creativity.
Modesty – especially false modesty – disappeared along with pride ... ‘I’ was not doing
I saw and understood that we humans were trying to make life fit our petty demands; our pathetic
dreams; our desperate schemes ... and who am ‘I’ to know better than this infinite, eternal and perpetual universe how to do it. Because
all the while, perfection was abounding all about ... magically unfolding, each moment again, if only one would give oneself permission to ‘let
go the controls’ and allow it all to happen of its own accord. Again, none of this is to negate the very essential patiently acquired skills
and expertise ... otherwise one is as a leaf blowing in the wind (‘think not of the morrow’ and all that nonsense). Initially I described
it as ‘being like a child again but with adult sensibilities’. Of course, time would show me that being ‘child-like’ is not it ... but
that was ‘my’ beginning explanation back then when seeking to understand.
Back in 1980 ‘I’ looked at the stars one night and temporarily came to my senses: there are
galaxies exploding/imploding (or whatever) all throughout the physical infinitude where an immeasurable quantity of matter is perpetually
arranging and rearranging itself in endless varieties of form all over the boundless reaches of infinite space throughout the limitless extent
of eternal time and ‘I’ – puny, pathetic ‘I’ in an ant-like-in-comparison and very vulnerable 6’2’’ flesh and blood body –
disapprove of all this? That is, ‘I’ call all this a ‘sick joke’, or whatever depreciative assessment? And further: so what if ‘I’
were to do an about-face and graciously approve? What difference would that make to the universe?
Ergo: ‘I’, with all my abysmal opinions, theories, concepts, values, principles, judgements and
so on, am not required at all ... ‘I’ am a supernumerary. ‘I’ am redundant; ‘I’ can retire; fold ‘my’ hand; pack in the game,
die, dissolve, disappear, disintegrate, depart, vamoose, vanish – whatever – and life would manage quite well, thank you, without ‘me’
... a whole lot better, in fact, as ‘I’ am holding up the works from functioning smoothly.
‘I’ am not needed ... ‘my’ services are no longer required.
RESPONDENT: (...) I find it quite viable as you say, that ‘thought
needs no ‘I’ to operate and function’, but I cannot help but wonder whether there isn’t a skerrick of imagination which also needs no
‘I’ to operate and function?
RICHARD: No ... if there is a ‘a skerrick of imagination’ then there is
guaranteed to be a skerrick of ‘I’ lurking about somewhere cunningly disguised as ‘naturalness’ or ‘spontaneity’ or ‘unaffectedness’
RESPONDENT: Is all imagery connected to the limbic system, to
feeling, as the synesthetes above?
RICHARD: All imagery is a product of the imaginative/intuitive facility contained within the
psyche – the affective faculty – born of the instinctual passions. When the instinctual passions are deleted, the entire psyche itself
ceases to exist ... thus the imaginative apparatus also disappears in toto.
RESPONDENT: Could it be that there are non feeling images, that we
create an image of sorts, in our mind for each and every thought?
RICHARD: There is no such thing as ‘non-feeling images’ ... without the affective
faculty there is no visualising, no forming images, no picturing, no ‘seeing in my mind’s eye’, no intuiting, no feeling, no
envisioning, no falling into a reverie, no daydreaming, no conceptualising, no envisaging in any way, shape or form.
There is only the magical unfolding of the actual ... actuality is far, far better than anything
‘I’ could imagine, dream, contrive or concoct.
RESPONDENT: Do you really expect me to believe that
you have not thought in images for a year or more? Having a hard time imagining that.
RICHARD: I am factually free the intuitive/imaginative faculty irrespective of whether
person (A) believes my words to be true or whether person (B) believes my words to be false. My freedom from the intuitive/imaginative faculty
has nothing whatsoever to do with what other people believe or disbelieve. However, their own freedom from the human condition – which is
what is of crucial importance here – is dependent upon their remembering at least one of their PCE’s accurately ... and herein I can play
a part in affirming and confirming their personal experience of the perfection of the infinitude of this material universe.
I do not want any one to merely believe me. I stress to people how vital it is that they see for
themselves. If they were so foolish as to believe me then the most they would end up in is living in a dream state and thus miss out on the
actual. I do not wish this fate upon anyone ... I like my fellow human beings.
Of course, if they believe my words to be false they close the door on their own freedom from the
human condition and have to invent a synthetic freedom ... be it a conceptual freedom or whatever substitute for the actual they manage to
spin out of their intuitive/imaginative faculty.
RESPONDENT: You are not a machine (computer) are you? Do you have a
RICHARD: A physical heart that pumps blood, yes ... a ‘bleeding heart’ as in piteous
sentimentality, no. You see, I actually care about my fellow human being ... not merely feel that I care.
RESPONDENT: I am afraid I do not take you seriously. First you
claim to have no beliefs or images (‘I have no intuitive or imaginative faculties whatsoever ... that all disappeared in 1992’.), then you
write: ‘And this freedom from the human condition would revolutionise the concept of humanity. It would be a free association of peoples
world-wide; a utopian-like loose-knit affiliation of like-minded individuals (etc.)’ The above quote is your image of what ‘this freedom’
would be like (it is very much like the famous song John Lennon’s wrote: ‘Imagine’ (image-ine).
RICHARD: Hmm ... why do you write to a Mailing List, ostensibly set-up to explore ways to
end all the appalling misery and mayhem that is the human condition, if this is the best you can come up with? Can you possibly move on from
this ‘you have an image’ retort you keep applying? Can you not sincerely address yourself to the question?
RESPONDENT: So you obviously do have images. How do you explain
(rationalise?) this discrepancy in the credibility of your claims?
RICHARD: Because by being this flesh and blood apperceptive brain I am/have full use of this
apperceptive thinking brain’s capacity for rational (sensible) thought. It is obvious that if (‘if’) each and ever human being were to
free themselves from the human condition then this unilateral action would result in a free association of peoples world-wide; a utopian-like
loose-knit affiliation of like-minded individuals. One would be a citizen of the world, not of a sovereign state. Countries, with their
artificial borders would vanish along with the need for the military. As nationalism would expire, so too would patriotism with all its heroic
evils. No police force would be needed anywhere on earth; no locks on the doors, no bars on the windows. Gaols, judges and juries would become
a thing of the dreadful past. People would live together in peace and harmony, happiness and delight. Pollution and its cause –
over-population – would be set to rights without effort, as competition would be replaced by cooperation. No longer need people lament the
futility of trying to escape from the folly of the ‘Human Condition’. Never again would fear rule the earth; terror would stalk its prey
no more ... and another 160,000,000 human beings would not be killed in wars by their fellow human next century.
But even if global peace was a long time coming – as is most probable due to stubbornly
recalcitrant identities – the most appealing aspect of actual freedom is its instant bestowal of universal peace upon the individual daring
enough to go all the way.
RICHARD: It is no wonder that you say ‘I sense that something is not
quite ‘right’’ when you read what I have to say ... I am a thorough-going atheist through and through; there is not the slightest
trace of religiosity, spirituality or mysticality in me whatsoever. To be actually free of the human condition is to be sans ‘I’ as ego
(the ‘thinker’) and ‘me’ as soul (the ‘feeler’) which is to be this flesh and blood body being apperceptively aware. And where
there is no ‘I’ as ego and ‘me’ as soul (no psyche) there is no imaginative/intuitive faculty ... hence no ‘this other ‘mind’’
metaphysical projection. It is all so simple here in this actual world.
RESPONDENT: Why do you say that there is no imaginative faculty?
RICHARD: Because it is my on-going experience, night and day since 1992, that the entire
imaginative/intuitive faculty has vanished. I literally cannot visualise, form images, envision, ‘see in my mind’s eye’, envisage,
picture, intuit, feel, fall into a reverie, daydream or in any way, shape or form imaginatively access anything other than directly
apprehending what is happening just here right now. I could not form a mental picture of something ‘other’ if my life depended upon it. I
literally cannot make images ... whereas in my earlier years ‘I’ could get a picture in ‘my mind’s eye’ of ‘my’ absent mother,
wife, children and so on ... or the painting ‘I’ was going to paint, or the coffee-table ‘I’ was going to build, or the route ‘I’
was going to take in ‘my’ car or whatever. If I were to close my eyes and ‘visualise’ now, what happens is the same velvety-smooth
darkness – as looking into the infinite and eternal space of the universe at night – that has been the case for all these years now. I
cannot visualise, imagine, conceptualise ... when I recall my childhood, my young manhood, my middle ages or yesterday it is as if it were a
documentary on television but with the picture turned off (words only) or like reading a book of someone else’s life.
It is the affective content that makes memories ‘real’ – the entire psyche itself – and it
is the self-same process that makes imagining a past or a future ‘real’ that makes an ‘otherness’ even more ‘real’ than everyday
RESPONDENT: To ‘imagine’ is a sane faculty of this
RICHARD: I have not been sane for many, many years. It is pertinent to acknowledge that sane
people killed 160,000,000 of their sane fellow human beings in wars this century alone ... and then there is all the murders and rapes and
tortures and domestic violence and child abuse and sadness and loneliness and grief and depression and suicides to further give pause to
reconsider whether sanity is such a desirable state of being as sane peoples make out.
Sanity is personally insalubrious and socially reprehensible.
RESPONDENT: I can imagine a cow right now – with or without an I
RICHARD: I cannot ... I can intellectually know what a cow is like in that I can draw a
reasonable facsimile; yet as I am drawing I cannot visualise what the finished drawing will be like ... it becomes apparent as the drawing
RICHARD: ... since you are specifically referring to me listening or reading
at this very moment (where the delusion called spiritual enlightenment is no longer extant) it would be helpful to explain that it is
impossible for this brain to form images as the entire imaginative/intuitive faculty has vanished. I literally cannot imagine, visualise,
envisage, envision, picture, intuit, see in the mind’s eye, feel-out, dream up, fall into a reverie, or in any other way, shape or manner
imaginatively conceptualise anything whatsoever. I could not form a mental picture of something if my life depended upon it ... whereas in
earlier years ‘I’ could get a picture in ‘my’ mind’s eye of ‘my’ absent father, mother, wife, children and so on ... or the
painting ‘I’ was going to paint, or the coffee-table ‘I’ was going to build, or the route ‘I’ was going to take by car or
whatever. If I were to close my eyes now, and try to visualise, all what happens is the same velvety-smooth darkness – as looking into the
infinite and eternal universe at night – which has been the case for all these years now. I simply cannot have images ... when I recall
childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, being middle-aged or yesterday it is as if it were a documentary on television but with the picture
turned off (words only) or like reading a book of somebody’s life.
RESPONDENT: I doubt if what you are saying is true.
RICHARD: Sure ... all I am doing here, as has been the case ever since coming onto the
internet, is to share my experience with my fellow human being for them to do with what they will.
RESPONDENT: To the extent that it is, I don’t know why you
believe it is something of merit.
RICHARD: I do not have to ‘believe’ it to be anything – let alone ‘something
of merit’ – as it is patently beneficial to operate and function sans the imaginative/intuitive faculty.
RESPONDENT: Ability to imagine creatively or intuit is not
RICHARD: As I have personally met umpteen number of people who ‘imagine creatively or
intuit’ all manner of things which have no existence outside of the human psyche you are way out on your own with this observation.
RESPONDENT: The ability to remember through use of images is
essential to effectively function.
RICHARD: Speaking from the on-going experiencing, for just on a decade now, of living life
sans the ‘use of images’ you say are essential I can unequivocally testify that operating and functioning in the everyday world of
people, things and events freed of the imaginative/intuitive faculty is a breeze.
RESPONDENT: For example, I can study a geographical map of an area
and later picture and recollect where places, streets, cities, etc are in relationship to each other. It is almost like calling up a screen on
the computer. Another common example – I am looking for an object used yesterday and can recall through images step by step what occurred
the day before. By retracing steps, I can bring back the specific memory of where the object was left. When I find the information needed, no
further energy is given to image-making.
RICHARD: Whereas my experience is that both navigation and the locating of misplaced objects
do not require an imaginative/intuitive faculty.
RESPONDENT: We all do variations of this very quickly for all sorts
RICHARD: That there is one person not doing this puts a dent in your ‘we all do’
RESPONDENT: The images occur on a subconscious level.
RICHARD: No such event occurs in this brain.
RESPONDENT: You don’t look directly at them like you would look
at a physical object.
RICHARD: As there is no imaging occurring in this brain, to look at either directly or
indirectly, you can only be speaking to an image you have of me.
RESPONDENT: An inability to perceive without images distorting
perception is a much different question.
RICHARD: Aye ... but as there is no imaging happening in this brain anyway your ‘much
different question’ has no relevance.
RESPONDENT: With regards to your statement that it
is impossible to visualize images any more (if I have understood correctly): if you close your eyes and try and do some physical action, like
turn on the TV, are there no mental images there to guide you?
RICHARD: None whatsoever ... the imaginative/intuitive faculty vanished when the affections
ceased to exist (and thus their epiphenomenal psychic facility). I literally cannot imagine, visualise, envisage, envision, picture, intuit,
see in the mind’s eye, feel-out, dream up, fall into a reverie, or in any other way, shape or manner imaginatively conceptualise anything
whatsoever. I could not form a mental image of something if my life depended upon it ... whereas in earlier years ‘I’ could get a picture
in ‘my’ mind’s eye of ‘my’ absent father, mother, wife, children and so on ... or the painting ‘I’ was going to paint, or the
coffee-table ‘I’ was going to build, or the route ‘I’ was going to take by car or whatever. If I were to close the eyes now, and try
to visualise, all what happens is the same velvety-smooth darkness – as looking into the infinite and eternal and perpetual universe at
night – which has been the case for all these years now. I simply cannot have images ... when I recall childhood, adolescence, early
adulthood, being middle-aged or yesterday it is as if it were a documentary on television but with the picture turned off (words only) or like
reading a book of somebody’s life. There is only the direct experiencing of actuality.
RESPONDENT: If not, how do you guess where the buttons are?
RICHARD: By touch and memory (the on-off button on the TV remote control is the top-right
RESPONDENT: I don’t understand. Surely the idea of top-right must
relate to some kind of visual image?
RICHARD: No, the memory of ‘top-right’ relates to (prior) visual sight – it refers to
the actuality of visually seeing that is where it is located – and in day-to-day practice I very rarely look at the buttons on TV remote
control anyway as through constant usage it has become automatic to go by touch (the mute button is top-left and the channel selector is
RESPONDENT: What is memory if not partly mental images (along with
words, sounds etc)?
RICHARD: For me memory is intellectual – the referent words only – with neither images
RESPONDENT: If I say to you get me an egg, there must be some kind
of visual image of an egg to compare it to the real thing?
RICHARD: No, there is sufficient familiarity with eggs to intellectually know what one is by
RESPONDENT: How else can you link the word egg to the actual
RICHARD: If no actual egg be present ... intellectually.
RESPONDENT: What is the exact mental/physical process involved for
one with no identity?
RICHARD: If the egg be present ... the direct (unmediated) perception; if the egg be absent
... the intellectual memory.
RESPONDENT: Sorry for being a bit slow here, but when you say
intellectual memory what do you mean?
RICHARD: I mean the cerebral, or mental, recall of that which is not present.
RESPONDENT: It seems to me there are only three options:
1) The ‘sound’ of the word egg.
2) The ‘visual’ image of the word egg.
3) The ‘visual’ image of an actual egg.
I can’t see any other way of remembering an object. Presumably when you
read the word egg, you know what I am talking about. How can you know if not through the visual memory of an actual egg?
RICHARD: It may help to recall something without a tangible shape or form such as an egg has
– maybe helium for instance or some other colourless and odourless gaseous substance – and you might get an inkling of what an
intellectual memory is.
RESPONDENT: Are you distinguishing between visual memory and active
RICHARD: No ... visual memory *is* active imagination.
RESPONDENT: (I suppose I am asking whether conceptualising is
actual or just a feature of the identity).
RICHARD: I can intellectually conceptualise (formulate, configure, theorise, and so on) –
as in 2+2=4, for instance, or ‘if this, then that’, for another – as it is the intuitive/imaginative conceptualising (visualising,
idealising, romanticising, fantasising, and so on), which is a feature of identity.
RESPONDENT: In some ways the brain cannot even tell
the difference between events in ‘mindspace’ and events in physical space. Eg. (this was relayed to me second hand, so I’m not 100% sure
of the details but I’m sure of the conclusion): in a recent experiment, some people were taught to play certain melodies on a flute, while
another group were told to simply imagine themselves playing these melodies (visualising the fingerings precisely as they ought to be).
At the conclusion of the experiment, the actual neural hardware of both groups had changed in the same way (i.e. new neurons and
connections between them had formed in the same areas of the brain).
RICHARD: As you specifically refer to ‘melodies on a flute’ then what was relayed
to you second-hand probably came from a TV programme aired only 10 days before you posted your e-mail (on the weekly Australian TV programme
‘Catalyst’) entitled ‘Baroness and the Brain’.
However, the experiment mentioned in that programme was not about flute-playing but piano-playing
– and a simple one-handed five-finger exercise at that (for two hours a day over a five-day period) – designed to study, via trans-cranial
magnetic stimulation (TMS), the role of plastic changes in the human motor system in the acquisition of new fine-motor skills ... specifically
the modulation of the cortical motor areas targeting the contralateral long finger flexor and extensor muscles.
The reason I am cognisant of all this is because I watched that programme and, because the scenario
presented was so implausible (and because ‘Catalyst’ has presented many such quasi-scientific shows before), I did a little research. The
baroness referred to in the title is Ms. Susan Greenfield, a professor of physiology awarded a life-peerage in 2001 and a (current)
government-sponsored ‘Thinker In Residence’ at the University Of South Australia, who has attracted both praise and criticism over the
years for being a populist speaker-educator on neuroscience. Here is an example of the criticism (from ‘The Observer’):
• ‘With fame, she [Ms. Susan Greenfield] has become detached from all the processes of scrutiny
and quality control that scientists use when they communicate with each other through papers or whatever’, says one of her scientific
contemporaries, who insists on anonymity. ‘A lot of what she says does not pass muster academically. Britain is very strong on neuroscience
and compared to the leaders in the field, she is simply not in the same league. She is never cited in research papers’. (Sean O’Hagan; Sunday September 7, 2003; http://education.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4748159-108966,00.html).
And here is the relevant portion of the ‘Baroness and the Brain’ programme:
• [Narration]: Susan Greenfield is one of the world’s most eminent brain scientists. Thanks to
her gift for making neuroscience understandable she’s been made a Baroness. She’s also a professor at Oxford University, in Britain (...).
• [Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield]: There’s a really interesting study looking a brain scans of people who unlike these girls
[several girls are pictured playing the flute on the TV screen] have never played a musical instrument before.
• [Narration]: If the experiment was done on these girls they’d be divided into three groups. The first would be shown an instrument but
not taught to play – they’re the control group. The second group would be taught simple 5 finger exercises and told to practise them
daily. The third group would be taught the five finger exercises but simply told to imagine practising. In the original study, after 5 days
their brains were scanned to see if there’d been any change. The control group showed no change in their brain connections.
• [Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield]: However the group that were shown the five finger piano exercises// over five days their brains
show a different pattern. The area of the brain that relates to the fingers gets bigger.
• [Narration]: So by practising they could physically change their brain connections, making them bigger and better.
• [Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield]: But more remarkable than that the group that just had to imagine they were doing it also show a
similar change in their brain scans.
• [Narration]: So in theory this means we all have the power to improve brain connections just by thinking about it.
• [Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield]: I think people have always known that your mindset is the most important thing ... uh ... it’s
like I said to a kid once in England ‘Why don’t you just pretend you’re clever?’ ... so we know that the way you see yourself can
effect both your physical and mental performance. What is reassuring I think for people though who are not used to the neuroscience’s is to
see that there are physical ways that we know this is done and to show that it’s not just hand waving, it’s not just airy fairy stuff. (www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s1185573.htm).
The [quote] ‘really interesting study’ [endquote] she referred to can be found both at PubMed
and in the Journal of Neurophysiology:
The study has been cited many times ... here is but one instance:
• ‘Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), Pascual-Leone et al.  demonstrated how
plastic changes in the cerebral cortex during the acquisition of new fine motor skills occur within only five days. Subjects who learned the
one-handed, five-finger exercise through daily 2-hour piano practice sessions, enlarged their cortical motor areas targeting the long finger
flexor and extensor muscles, and decreased their activation threshold. Furthermore, the study provided evidence that the changes were
specifically limited to the cortical representation of the hand used in the exercise, and that the changes take place regardless whether the
training had been performed physically, or mentally only. Pascual-Leone, A, Dang, N, Cohen, LG,
Brasil-Neto, JP, Cammarota, A, & Hallett, M: Modulation of muscle responses evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation during the
acquisition of new fine motor skills J Neurophysiol 1995, 74(3):10371045’. (www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=270043).
And here is a paragraph from an on-line article which refers to a media report on the study:
• ‘Recently Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a scientist at the National Institute of Health, studying
the brain, found that we acquire new skills in surprising ways. Using five finger piano exercises, he found that the brain’s motor maps of
the hand more than tripled for those who did goal oriented practice on the piano. Those who spent the same time just hitting keys showed
little or no brain effects. The most surprising effect came from a third group who simply practiced by imagination. ‘They ... were only
allowed to rehearse mentally – not manually – while looking at the key board. After five days the brains of these people were identical to
those who had manually practiced ... The same cell networks involved in executing a task are also involved in imagining it’ [from Chase, Marilyn. ‘Inner Music, Imagination May Play Role in How the Brain Learns Muscle Control,’ The
Wall Street Journal, October 13, 1993, pages 1 and A13]’. (www.goshen.edu/art/ed/ritual.html).
The abstract of the study itself can be found here: http://www.uth.tmc.edu/apstracts/1995/jn/May/158n.html
Here is the relevant portion of that abstract (straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were, and
not what others have made of it):
• ‘Over the course of 5 days, mental practice alone led to significant improvement in the
performance of the five-finger exercise, but the improvement was significantly less than that produced by physical practice alone. However,
mental practice alone led to the same plastic changes in the motor system as those occurring with the acquisition of the skill by repeated
physical practice (...) Mental practice alone seems to be sufficient to promote the modulation of neural circuits involved in the early stages
of motor skill learning. This modulation not only results in marked performance improvement, but also seems to place the subjects at an
advantage for further skill learning with minimal physical practice. (‘Modulation of Muscle Responses
Evoked by Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation During the Acquisition of New Fine Motor Skills’. Pascual-Leone, Alvaro, Nguyet Dang, Leonardo
G. Cohen, Joaquim P. Brasil-Neto, Angel Cammarota, and Mark Hallett).
Design, Richard's Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.
Disclaimer and Use Restrictions and Guarantee of Authenticity