Monday, 9 May 2011

BBC's "Mad But Glad" -Pianist Nick Van Bloss, Tourette's Syndrome, and creativity!

Mad but Glad
The 2007 BBC Horizon documentary Mad But Glad explores creativity and tourette's syndrome.  It's popularly theorised that Mozart suffered from Tourette's syndrome due to his toilet humour in his letters & symptomatic uncontrollable use of profanity. Another symptom, would be uncontrollable muscular activity like a facial or vocal tic. This documentary features the pianist Nick Van Bloss who got his break from this documentary and is now a concert pianist, and  featured in International Piano magazine for his recent recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

In the course of the documentary,  a scan of of Nick's brain activity during a creative and non creative process revealed his tourette's syndrome brain showing an "endless flow of creativity" - "unstoppable" and in a sense "can't switch his creativity off."

Creative genius and the senses
Nick suffers from "low latent inhibition"; where everything is exaggerated beyond the norm; figuratively
everything on fire all the time,... sensory input is so high, it eventually overwhelms them. It was suggested in the programme that geniuses such as Picasso and Van Gogh suffered from similar mental states, and to me,  it's quite evident by Van Gogh's paintings.

There was a schizophrenic artist featured in the documentary that sees endless connections (symptomatic of schizophrenia), he is inspired by the very dissonant late Beethoven string quartets in his art. The levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine (as dopamine inhibitors are used to treat schizophrenia) demonstrate the link between creativity and schizophrenia; characterised by  loose association - capacity of a word to set off another idea and on and on.

Insight from Oliver Sachs
When talking to Oliver Sachs, Nick says he likes Bach because it has emotion behind it yet is very controlled.
Sachs discusses what may be happening with Nick's mental state: a hightening of emotion and perception, and for these to be translated into action (ideal for a pianist). He also reaffirms the role of the dopamine as regulating the flow of emotion, thought, and  perception. A fascinating documentary, perhaps some insight into  the madness that Schumann encountered! (although this is widely believed due to manic depression or even syphylis, or all the above perhaps?)

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