Sunday, May 15, 2011

Can Bacteria Help You Get a Book Deal?

I love weird research.

Despite the chorus of ridicule that greets each news blurb highlighting the money squandered on studying the obvious (The Journal "Current Anthropology" ran a report proving that people put on more clothes when it's cold)......or the bizarre (Neuroscientists in Barcelona found that rats cannot understand Dutch or Japanese when it is played to them backwards).......... I'm still fascinated.

Take, for instance, the June 2011 issue of Outside magazine. In it, nature writer Richard Louv tackles the question of what our digitalized, electronic-laden lives are doing to our brains and our creative intelligence.

In his article, Louv touches on the work of Dorothy Matthews and Susan Jenks at the Sage Colleges in Troy, New York.

Matthews and Jenks examined the lowly Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria readily found in ordinary soil. In fact, this microbe is so abundant in nature that people routinely ingest or inhale it whenever they spend time in the great outdoors.

According to Matthews and Jenks, lab mice supplied with this naturally-occurring bacteria learned to navigate complicated mazes twice as fast as those without, and the positive, brain-stimulating effects lasted for weeks before wearing off.

Einstein, Mozart, and many others famous for exercising creative intelligence were fond of getting outside, where they often reported encountering their best ideas.

So if you're stuck on that latest plot point, consider shutting off your computer. Pick up a notebook and pen, and hike off into the woods. Breathe deep.

Sit under a tree beside a babbling brook and write.

Maybe the "little guys" will help you...

What's your experience?  Does getting out in nature help spark your creative juices?

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