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Resilience in the Face of Tragedy

 What can we do to heal from the events at UCLA on June 1? Our student body and facultyare already stretching themselves thin as we close out the final days of the Spring term and head into finals week. Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Waugh, and Chancellor Block have publicized the availability of help for students at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS; 310-825-0768), and for staff and faculty at the Staff and Faculty Counseling Center (SFCC; 310-794-0245), and campus healing spaces have been organized.

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Students and community members hold up LED lights at vigil for Professor William Klug. Image from UCLA Newsroom

A vigil organized by the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science thatis open to campus and community will take place at 4 p.m. today in the UCLA Court of Sciences. We will post notices of upcoming special events related to this crisis on the Healthy Campus Initiative website as these become known. You may also review many other resources to support resilience and emotional well-being (

Moving forward as a community, we need to recognize first that each of us experienced theevents differently, and we should expect a range of responses. Many on campus and in thesurrounding areas may have felt threatened, and those off campus watching the events unfold were alarmed. Not everyone will experience traumatic psychological responses, although many will. It is very important to know that there is no “right way” to cope. Some mayexperience distress in the immediate aftermath that can abate relatively quickly, while othersexperience symptoms that persist over time. These responses do not necessarily correlatewith how close you were to the event or how many people you knew who were there. Trauma exposure can impact our functioning, leading to thoughts and uncomfortable feelings that maynot go away immediately.

Some may find it helpful to express emotions. Talking about one’s fear, distress, and associated physical symptoms, may be healing. We can help one another by reaching out and offering support, and we can help ourselves by actively seeking connections to our friends and families. Listen to others without judgement and spend time with close others. We should anticipate that some members of our community will need more help, and help is available.

If you or someone you know needs it, please do whatever you can to learn about the effects of trauma and how we can guide others to take advantage of the resources (For students:; For staff and faculty:

We hope to move forward in closer empathic connection to one another, and invite you to share your ideas to help us enhance resilience (Email us at Through shared action, we can build a future where such tragedies become less common.

Robert M Bilder, Tennenbaum Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology, David Geffen School of Medicine and College of Letters & Science at UCLA. On behalf of the Mind Well pod, UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative


Wake Up, College Students: Here’s The Science On Sleep

Sleep is something we all love, so why do we constantly put it last on our ever-lengthening list of priorities? You may have heard the sayings, “health is wealth” or “health is happiness.” Well, research has absolutely proven that sleep is key to health and happiness.

More Sleep = Better Life Decisions

Although pop culture claims otherwise, there is more to college life than going to parties, binge-watching TV and doing schoolwork. College students care about being good people and building a rewarding life – it’s a big part of who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and how we understand our place in the universe. And guess what? Proper sleep is a huge piece of that puzzle. In a 2011 study on sleep and unethical behavior, researchers found that sleep quantity is positively related to self-control and negatively related to unethical behavior. In other words, getting enough sleep helps us assess and make better decisions for ourselves – and those around us.

More Sleep = Improved Quality of Life

I think it’s safe to say we all want a sense of wellbeing and happiness. As explained in an article on the emotional brain and sleep, “deprivation of sleep makes us more sensitive to emotional and stressful stimuli and events in particular.” The author notes that our REM-sleep directly affects our next day mood and emotion. Think about it: our days are a constant torrent of emotional events. And it has been proven that sleep determines the way we receive, perceive and cope with these events.

More Sleep = Better Grades

Our foremost purpose in college is to get an education and perform academically to the best of our abilities. Why, then, does the population of college students, around the world, get the least amount of sleep? I’m sure you’ve heard it from your parents, your teachers, and your mentors: “Get a good night’s rest before your midterm,” or “You might think the all-nighter is going to help you do better, but it won’t.” Whether we feel that the all-nighter will give us that edge or not, our teachers, parents, and mentors are correct. I can’t stress how closely connected academic performance and cognitive ability are to quality of sleep. Believe me, I tried researching the benefits of all-nighters and coffee binges! According to the literature, “Sleep loss is frequently associated with poor declarative and procedural learning in students.” When sleep was restricted, neurocognitive and academic performance declined. Period.

More Sleep Deprivation = Greater Risk of Chronic Disease 

Did you know that Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, and metabolic syndromes (obesity, blood pressure elevation, high fasting serum concentrations of triglycerides and glucose, and low serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) are all significantly related to quantity and quality of sleep? Take one study that restricted sleep to four hours per night for one week in young, normal weight men. In a single week, these men increased body weight and exhibited endocrine and metabolic changes consistent with the presence of metabolic syndrome! Imagine what more than one week of sleep deprivation can do.

Who is with Me?

Imagine a world of happy, emotionally well-adjusted, morally inclined, over-achieving students. Start the revolution on your campus by getting more sleep!#SleepRevolution #UCLALiveWell

This post is part of our series on sleep culture on college campuses. To join the conversation and share your own story, please email our Director of College Outreach Abby Williams directly at And you can find out here if the #SleepRevolution College Tour will be visiting your campus, and learn how you can get involved. If your college is not one of the colleges already on our tour and you want it to be, please get in touch with Abby.

Phillip Cox is a 4th year Bioengineering major and blogger for the Eat Well Pod within the Healthy Campus Initiative.

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Sleep Deprivation Is No Joke

By: Carolanne Link, UCLA Undergraduate Student

Recently, I had one of those days where I prioritized homework above sleep. I was in my fourth straight hour of chemistry homework when I made myself laugh. How? Well, while doing an extensive calculation, I picked up my cellphone and started typing into that. I only realized my phone was not in fact my calculator when I couldn’t find operations on the keypad. I chuckled, picking up my calculator and spending the next two minutes typing the calculations in, only to realize that I had never turned the calculator on.

At this point my chuckling started to give way to a bit of worry about my inattention. I’m sure some of you are smirking, imagining this scenario and/or commiserating with this tale while remembering something similar you’ve done. It’s a common “college-esque” incident; students joke about all-nighters, late-night cramming, and, in my case, “binge-homeworking.”

But the problem with this is that we caffeine-infused go-getters brush over how our self-induced sleep deprivation affects our long-term learning. Within 48 hours of my homework binge, I couldn’t have told you what half those problems were about, or how I solved them.

When my TA went over some similar examples during my discussion later that week, some of it came rushing back. Mostly, though, it hit me that if I had gotten these problems on a test or quiz, I would have drawn a giant blank – regardless of how well I did on the homework set! After the shock and internal horror faded a bit, I considered the fact that this was probably the topic of many scientific studies.

A quick search yielded a 13-page report on the “Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation.” I found out from this study that there are three types of sleep deprivation: 1) Partial sleep deprivation = less than 7 hours of sleep every 24 hours, 2) Short-term sleep deprivation = no sleep for an extended period less than or equal to 45 hours, and 3) Long-term sleep deprivation = no sleep for more than 45 hours.

What really grabbed my attention was the following: “When all three measures [mood, cognitive performance, and motor functions] are collapsed together, the mean functional level of any sleep-deprived individual is estimated to be comparable to the 9th percentile of non-sleep deprived subjects. Interestingly, mood and cognition were found to be more affected by partial sleep-deprivation than total sleep deprivation.”

In non-academic speak, this basically translates to two things:

1) If you deprive yourself of sleep, you’re likely to be functioning worse than 90% of the people who actually got a full night’s sleep.
2) Consistently not getting a full night’s sleep can be even worse for you than large binges of deprivation!

Therefore, please don’t be like me and all the other college zombies around! Otherwise, you might find yourself mistaking your phone for your calculator too, and perhaps at a more dire moment than I did. Heed my warning my dear peers, and always prioritize a good night’s sleep.


7 Strategies to Optimize Your Sleep Routine

Co-authored by David Baron, MD and the UCLA MindWell Team

The results are in: One in three Americans does not get enough sleep. This is the latest finding in a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that asked almost half a million adult Americans how many hours of sleep, on average, they get in a 24-hour period.

While precise individual sleep needs vary, Experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend at least seven hours of sleep each night for adults. According to the new study, only about 65% of us are meeting this recommendation. 

Sleep Matters

First of all, why does it matter? Who needs sleep anyway? You’ve heard people say, “I can rest when I’m dead.” That’s true, but not getting enough sleep can actually shorten your lifespan.

Sleeping less than seven hours is associated with higher stress, anxiety and depression, poorer cognitive function (sexual function too), obesity, difficulty controlling high blood pressure, and even cardiovascular risks, not to mention loss of creativity and alertness.

And here’s something you might not have thought of: motor vehicle accidents. The number one cause of daytime sleepiness is poor quality or insufficient nighttime sleep. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 846 fatalities in 2014 and an estimated average of 83,000 car crashes per year between 2005-2009 that were drowsy-driving related. One study found that people who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.

7 Strategies to Sleep Smarter

So what’s a work-hard/play-hard, multitasking, over-extended, not-so-well-rested person to do?

We’ve got two words for you: sleep smarter. You may not have a lot of time for sleeping, but you can sleep smarter by optimizing your sleep routine.

1. Cover the basics: Restful sleep generally requires a reasonably comfortable bed in a dark, quiet location that isn’t too hot or too cold. Research suggests an environmental temperature of about 65 degrees is best if sleeping with pajamas and light bedding.
2. Stick to a schedule: Try to consider your sleep time like any other commitment in your busy day. Go to bed and wake up on time!
3. Be smart about screen time: Avoid using electronics (yes, smartphones and tablets, too) late at night as blue-green wavelengths can keep you more alert. Life hack: You can also install f.lux on your devices to remove blue light and adjust your screen according to the time of day.
4. Eat and exercise earlier: Avoid eating large meals late at night, and try to stick to consistent meal times throughout the day. In addition, vigorous exercise within 2-3 hours of bedtime revs you up and makes it harder to fall asleep, while moderate exercise in the late afternoon or early evening can help you sleep.
5. Skip the nightcap: Alcohol can also help you fall asleep but will often wake you up a few hours later (it has a two phase effect on the brain: first sedating, then activating). It’s the same deal with marijuana, which also disrupts normal sleep stage progression (i.e. not as much R.E.M. or Stage IV deep sleep).
6. Make bed a sacred space: Save your bed for sleeping and snuggling. Try not to eat, watch TV, text, or talk on the phone in bed. Note to students: Never study in bed.
7. Get sleepy and try again: If you have trouble falling asleep in 15 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and try doing a mellow activity like reading until you feel sleepy.

The science is clear that healthy sleep is critical for a healthy life. Give these strategies a try before you contact your health care provider about sleeping medications. Your doctor will likely want to talk to you about this approach before writing the prescription. And they should. Sedatives stop working pretty quickly and are generally addictive. In most cases, you can learn to get to sleep and get enough rest without them.

If you don’t believe us, sleep on it.

Get more tips and information from the UCLA Sleep Well Campaign.

Dr. David Baron is the executive director of the UCLA Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center.

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Be on the Best Stressed List

By: David B. Baron, M.D.

I’m having a particularly stressful week. So I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity to focus this column on one of the top three reasons people come to see a doctor: feeling  “stressed.”

Well, if you are reading this article then you live in the real world and stress is simply a part of that reality.  What’s the cause? It may be the increasingly rapid pace at which we live, a lost sense of connectedness to our families, friends, neighbors and communities (despite the hyper-connectivity of social media and erosion of personal privacy), or a the lack of control we feel over everything from traffic to terrorism, cars to computers, the price of gas to the gridlock in our government. That’s aside from the individual trials and tribulations we each must face in when we lose a loved one, graduate from school, change jobs, partners or homes.  But the end result is the same; it all affects our peace of mind, and ultimately our health.  Everything from back pain to high blood pressure, insomnia to depression, headaches, asthma, diabetes, esophageal reflux and stomach ulcers may be caused by and/or aggravated by stress.

I am not licensed or likely to be able tell you how to eliminate stress in your life.  Nor should that necessarily be the goal, since what challenges us often offers us opportunities to grow, innovate, and evolve as individuals and as a society.  But to paraphrase an old expression, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger if you cope with the stress adaptively.  Unfortunately, I all too often see people doing exactly the OPPOSITE of what a reasonable, intelligent person might suggest to a friend who is struggling with undue stress in their life. What I generally recommend is to try to eat regular meals and a nutritionally balanced diet, do some vigorous exercise most days of the week, get enough sleep, avoid alcohol, smoking and drugs, try meditation, yoga, journaling, or therapy, and consider seeking help from a doctor or therapist if you need it.  Instead, many people seem to quit going to gym, eat more fast food and junk, drink more, smoke more, sleep less, dabble in drugs, hide problems from friends and family, stop going to their houses of worship and refuse to see a therapist or try something new that might give them an hour or two of peace and quiet contemplation or just plain fun and release. That’s what I call “maladaptive coping.”

Whether or not it’s “human nature” to wallow in the misery, lick your wounds, drown your sorrows, stuff your feelings, sweep it under the rug (take your pick of common formulas for making matters worse) or try to ignore the problems and hope they’ll go away, the results of these types of maladaptive coping are pretty predictably unpleasant and unproductive.

So, think about whether the habits you have and the choices you make are actually CONTRIBUTING to your stress, or helping to alleviate it. There are many more ways than just the ones I’ve mentioned to keep you more balanced, resilient, healthy and growing, even in the face of an unpredictable world in which we’re all struggling to get by. It often takes only incremental, small changes practiced consistently to protect and improve your health in a hurry.  That shouldn’t stress you out too much.

This article also appeared in the Daily Bruin. 

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The stranger within: Connecting with our future selves

By Cynthia Lee

While we routinely make sacrifices for the people we feel closest to — our spouses, children and parents — and will even give money or our time to help complete strangers like the homeless, the one person whose plight we may actually ignore is our future self.

“When people think of themselves in the future, it feels to them like they are seeing a different person entirely … like a stranger on the street,” said Hal Hershfield, a social psychologist at UCLA Anderson who is exploring how human behavior can be modified by bringing people closer to their future selves.

Anderson psychologist Hal Hershfield and a simulated image of himself at age 68 or 70 years old. Courtesy of Hal Hershfield .

He’s found that the emotional disconnect we have with the person we will become in 20 to 40 years could explain, for example, why many people don’t save enough for retirement; why they continue to indulge in unhealthy behaviors, accepting the risk of incurring terrible diseases in the future; and why they make bad ethical decisions despite knowing that they might suffer consequences down the road.

“One of the reasons people fail to make good choices and don’t act in ways that are positive in the long term is because they feel a sense of emotional disconnect from their future selves,” said Hershfield, an assistant professor of marketing at UCLA Anderson who’s been following this line of research for seven years.

Hershfield and his collaborators from Stanford have been able to document that “disconnect” using fMRI technology. They compared the neural patterns in the brains of subjects who were asked to describe their current selves, their future selves 10 years hence, as well as other people. Across the board, the neural patterns evoked from thinking about the future self were most similar to the patterns that arose when thinking about another person.

In other words, on a brain level, the future self “looked” like another person. And, the research participants who had the biggest differences in brain activations — that is, the people for whom the future self looked most like another person — were the ones who were the least patient about making a financial decision during an exercise, meaning that they weren’t willing to wait for larger financial rewards later.

For most people, said Hershfield, “‘right now’ is a lot more important than anything in the future. The big question guiding our research is: How do you get people to step out of time a bit, to connect with themselves over time? Is there a link between future-oriented behavior and how emotionally connected people feel to their future selves?”

Working with a computer program capable of aging people’s photographs, Hershfield and his colleagues showed that people who see vivid pictures of their future faces — sparse hair going gray, age spots, a padding of subcutaneous fat — are willing to allocate more money — about twice as much — to a hypothetical long-term savings account.

In four studies using more advanced technology, subjects wearing immersive virtual reality headgear entered a virtual room to stand in front of a mirror. “Staring back at them was an aged version of their future selves,” Hershfield said. “They then spent about five minutes interacting with this image.”

In all four studies, those who interacted with their virtual future selves “exhibited an increased tendency to accept later monetary rewards over immediate ones,” according to the report in the Journal of Marketing Research.

This research has not gone unnoticed. It’s caught the attention of companies like Merrill Lynch, which has come up with “Face Retirement,” an online way to age yourself using a photo taken by your computer’s webcam, in an effort to get consumers to save more. The “Face Retirement” website, which contains a link to the Journal of Marketing Research article, was developed by the company after it consulted with Hershfield early on.

“So this research has entered the public arena,” he said. “A couple of other companies have taken up the idea as well. I think it’s great. It’s a good conversation to have because a lot of people don’t think about these issues on a day-to-day level.”

And perhaps prompt other conversations about, for example, end-of-life decisions?

“That’s the direction I’m hoping to go in — thinking about what are the psychological factors that tend to impact end-of-life decisions,” he said. “Although it’s harder for people to think about death, it’s also relevant to retirement decisions because all of this boils down to trying to make a positive decision now in order to put yourself in a good place in the future.”

Hershfield has also used age progression techniques, including simple ones like writing letter to a 20-year older version of yourself, in studies to determine if seeing or writing to your future self can affect ethical decision-making — like buying a stolen laptop or lying on a test to earn more money. In the latter case, he noted, “People were more likely to tell the truth about their test scores if they saw future images of themselves.”

Currently, the psychologist is the principal investigator of a nationwide study to see whether people who are overweight or trying to lose weight will be more likely to modify their eating or increase their exercise if they saw how they would look in six months or a year if they continued to eat and exercise at the current rate.

In this study, which Hershfield is conducting with Microsoft scientist Dan Goldstein, wireless scales will automatically send weight data to the researchers.

From information about subjects’ current height, weight and waist size, avatars have been created that can used to reflect weight changes into the future. “They’ll get an email everyday telling them what they weigh now. And here’s how you will look if you keep down this track,” Hershfield said.

“With a lot of these behaviors and goals, it’s really easy to ‘exceptionalize’ the present,” he explained.  “It’s easy to say, ‘I had a hard day – seven meetings this morning — so I deserve to eat this cookie.’ If each day is that way, you’ll never get to the point where you are on track to achieve what you want. We’re hoping that we can help people see that everything they do right now is part of a larger picture that includes their future self.”

Did you see that story on the news last night?

By: Doug Barrera, Ph.D., Assistant Director, UCLA Center for Community Learning

Ok then. Why don’t you tell me what you would do about immigration? No, really. Tell me what you would do to address immigration concerns in this country. Or, how about Israel and Palestine? What should we do about that? What about the student debt crisis? Or climate change? Do you think there’s about to be a race war in America? How do we ensure all people access to clean water and healthy food? Or should we?

These are the types of discussions you should be having at UCLA. College is meant to be the place where you are asked your opinion of what’s happening in the world; the place where those opinions are challenged, and where you in turn challenge others’ opinions. It’s meant to be the place where your mind is expanded by listening to the experiences of others. In essence, this is where your critical thinking skills about the world around you should be developed so that you graduate not only more knowledgeable about a certain academic discipline, but prepared to be an informed and active civic participant as well. And yet, in the current culture of higher education, such inquiries are happening with lesser and lesser frequency. Rather than being asked, “What do you think?,” you’re being told, “Here’s what you should know.” After all, it’s hard to ask each student for their opinion when you’re sitting in a class with 200 of your closest friends.

But this problem goes beyond the campus. The sources of information that is put in front of us seem infinite. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, The Daily Show, Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh, Huffington Post, Daily Kos, TMZ, ESPN. Not to mention all those posts from your “friends” on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. (And then there’s always the old school – newspapers and news magazines – if you care to go there.) Rarely do any of the contributors to these actively seek your opinion. Instead, they want you to know what they think. And that’s a problem.

You’ve probably heard the expression:  “Never talk about politics or religion at a party.” So I once asked a student, “Do you ever talk politics in your sorority house or at a fraternity party?” She told me that she never does, and would be scared to do so. When I asked why, she commented that if she ever did, she’d probably be attacked for what she believes and told that she was wrong. And you know what? She’s right. That is what would happen. Our standard modus operandi is to tell others why they’re wrong and why they should think just like us. We’re not interested in truly listening to others, because that might, possibly, cause us to reconsider what we believe.

But that’s the point of being at a place like UCLA. You don’t come here to have your views cemented. You come here to hear – to hear the perspectives of those different from you, to discuss what you believe, and hopefully, to be asked why you believe what you believe. That’s our responsibility. As Henry Giroux asserts in Take Back Higher Education, if colleges and universities are to be the “crucial sphere for creating citizens equipped to exercise their freedoms and competent to question the basic assumptions that govern democratic political life, academics will have to…(offer) students knowledge, debate, and dialogue about pressing social issues.”

So then, what do we do with all of this information that we are inundated with? How do we make sense of it all? How do we know what to believe and what to toss aside? Perhaps more importantly, how do we change the institutional and cultural barriers that inhibit our critical analysis of the information so that we may use it to become active participants in the global community? Well, one step is to actually talk with others about what’s happening.

That is what we try to do in my Fiat Lux course, Civic Engagement 19, “Social Justice and Democratic Citizenship: Developing a Critical Consciousness.” The goal of the course is to provide a space to interrogate our assumptions and our understanding of how the world works. Through rich conversations, we reflect on the lenses through which we view the world, as well as how we put on those lenses in the first place. Our challenge is to see beyond the status quo and consider how, by being more aware, we can begin to work toward social change. The bulk of the course is spent on discussing the current events of the day – anything from immigration to education to the distribution of wealth to food deserts. The students decide the issues that we discuss, and are charged with leading those discussions – essentially, it becomes their course. And by engaging in such discussions, the hope is that students will not only become a little more informed about what’s going on in the world around them, but will be encouraged to engage their peers further.

Dr. Douglas Barrera is an assistant director with the UCLA Center for Community Learning. He oversees the Civic Engagement minor and the Astin Civic Engagement Research program for the center, teaches classes in the Civic Engagement subject area, and conducts research and assessment for the center, including an evaluation of student learning associated with service learning. He previously served as a research analyst for the UCLA Center for Community Partnerships and the Higher Education Research Institute. Before coming to UCLA, he was program director for a non-profit community organizing agency in San Diego, and taught methods of community engagement at U.C. San Diego and the University of San Diego. He is co-author of the Council of Europe publication, Advancing Democratic Practice: A Self-Assessment Guide for Higher Education, and the Higher Education Research Institute’s publication, First in My Family: A Profile of First-Generation College Students at Four-Year Institutions Since 1971. Dr. Barrera received his Ph.D. and an M.A. in Education from UCLA, and an M.A. and B.A. in History from San Diego State University.

“What is an artists’ book, exactly?”

By: Robert Gore,  Visual Arts Librarian and curator of the artists’ book collection in the UCLA Arts Library

“There are no limits to what artists’ books can be and no rules for their   construction – and fortunately there is no end of their production in sight.”

-Johanna Drucker, A Century of Artists’ Books (2004), p. 364.

“What is an artists’ book, exactly?” It’s a question I am often asked, and it is a good question!

Trying to answer it, however, is a bit daunting. Sometimes I want to say, it’s a work of art produced in a book-like form. Or, it’s a book made by an artist. Another answer: it’s not a book-like structure, but more like an art work, but it has a narrative component or story attached.

In my Fiat Lux class, Artists’ Books in the UCLA Library and Beyond, I don’t answer the question, but I do provide an environment for students to consider the question and come up with their own answer(s). During the class, they have a chance to learn about zines, hear about book design from an award winning letterpress printer and book designer, visit or be introduced to collections of artists’ books in four different libraries on and off campus, and see examples of artists’ books that students at UCLA and elsewhere have created.

By week ten they have seen quite an astounding array of artists’ books and on the final day of class they present their main assignment – an artists’ book of their own. As the class moves along, they have seen a variety of different ‘book’ structures, some elaborate and some very simple. I try to encourage them not to get too caught up in making something that is too challenging; I want them to have fun with the process and become familiar with the concept of translating their ideas, research, drawings, collages, and other elements into a creative, book-like form. I also ask them to write an artist’s statement, which can be as short or long as they like – a reflective activity that gives them some exposure to how professional artists approach their own work.

The UCLA Library has one of the largest collections of artists’ books in North America. Each of the libraries or departments that collect artists’ books has a different focus.  The Arts Library’s collection, drawn largely from the private collection of Judith A. Hoffberg, contains many important historical examples of work by well-known contemporary artists including Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, and Gordon Matta-Clark. The UCLA Library Special Collections in the Young Research Library collects artists’ books in limited editions, unique (one-of-a-kind) books, pop-up books, and books by many well-known as well as emerging California book artists’ and printers including Julie Chen and Ninja Press. The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library’s collection includes artists’ books that highlight innovative uses of typography or lettering. The History and Special Collections for the Sciences (the Library Special Collections division located in the Biomedical Library) has a unique collection of artists’ books that relate to the history and practice of medicine, botany, and the natural and physical sciences.

At a conference I recently attended, Mo Dawley, a librarian who works at Carnegie Mellon University, talked about how artists’ books “resist dictating outcomes.” In the past, when teaching and giving presentations, I have characterized the making of artists’ books as a democratic and genre bending opportunity – there really are no limits to where you can go. A good thought for students to be left with when they complete the class!

Face Book, Samantha Masunaga, Fiat Lux, Spring Quarter 2010


‘Cinemeducation’ – Mental Illness and the Movies

By: David Taylor, MD

Would you agree that movies reflect society’s perceptions of mental illness?  Naturally there are many types of films and not every blockbuster, rom-com or documentary is going to have the same kinds of in-depth character development.  But in general, the portrayal of mental illness in film is often thought to reflect society’s perceptions, biases and stigmas of those suffering from diseases of the mind.

For example, Hitchcock’s classic thriller ‘Psycho’ (1960) perpetuates the myth that equates insanity with a deranged and murderous psychopath.  At the time the film was released, mental illness was a poorly understood and frightening phenomenon suitable for a dramatic movie.  In fact, the audience was so naive about the topic that, to minimize confusion, the movie concludes with a psychiatrist’s lengthy epilogue detailing the psychic origins of the main character’s pathology.  The film’s title alone is a derogatory jab at those who suffer from mental illness.  (However, in fairness to the director, I suppose an alternate title such as “Norman Bates – A Story of a Man with a Complicated Relationship with His Mother” might not have worked well either.)

Almost 50 years later, mental illness has achieved a cultural prominence that was unimaginable just a few generations earlier.  Diagnoses are better understood, treatments are more available, and society is more tolerant of diversity.  For example, ’A Beautiful Mind’ (2001) is the inspiring life story of a Princeton mathematician who won a Noble Prize despite his impairments from schizophrenia.  In ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ (2007), we find a compassionate depiction of mental illness in which the main character is embraced by family, friends and community despite his unusual and awkward delusions.

One of the most interesting observations about movies and mental illness is that each has the power to affect the other.  In other words, just as our beliefs about mental illness can influence movies, the movies can also influence the beliefs of those with mental illness.  For example, ‘The Truman Show’ (1998) imagined an artificial world where everyone — except for one unknowing individual — is portrayed by actors for a hyper-reality TV series.  Although the plot sounds farfetched, last year the New Yorker magazine (“Unreality Star”, Sept 16, 2013) profiled NYU psychiatrist Joel Gold who evaluated nearly 50 patients whose delusional beliefs mimicked the movie.  Dr. Gold even coined the term, Truman Show delusion, for an individual who “believes that he is being filmed, and that the films are being broadcast for the entertainment of others.”

The extraordinary ability of movies to both mirror and transform our beliefs makes them a valuable teaching tool.  Since 2012, I have taught a Fiat Lux freshman seminar called ‘Mental Illness and the Movies’ which explores the portrayal of mental illnesses in popular film.  Of course, movies are rarely designed to be faithful representations of reality and often include inaccurate portrayals of mental illness that perpetuate stigma.  Themes of violent insanity, incompetent physicians or abusive staff can reinforce the prejudices and discrimination against individuals with mental illness.  Through ‘cinemeducation’ this class provides a much needed opportunity to correct these misrepresentations, gain a better understanding of mental illness, and appreciate the wide diversity of individuals in our society.

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Turn Your Assumptions Around about Left Brain & Right Brain

About the Author: Scott Barry Kaufman is a cognitive psychologist investigating the development of intelligence and creativity. His latest book is Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined. Follow on Twitter@sbkaufman.

So yea, you know how the left brain is really realistic, analytical, practical, organized, and logical, and the right brain is so darn creative, passionate, sensual, tasteful, colorful, vivid, and poetic?


Just no.

Stop it.


Thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists such as Anna Abraham, Mark Beeman, Adam Bristol, Kalina Christoff, Andreas Fink, Jeremy GrayAdam GreenRex JungJohn KouniosHikaru TakeuchiOshin VartanianDarya Zabelinaand others are on the forefront of investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity.

The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain.* Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”

Depending on the task, different brain networks will be recruited.

For instance, every time you pay attention to the outside world, or attempt to mentally rotate a physical image in your mind (e.g., trying to figure out how to fit luggage into the trunk of your car), the Visuospatial Network is likely to be active. This network involves communication between the frontal eye fields and the intraparietal sulcus:

If your task makes greater demands on language, however, Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area are more likely to be recruited:

But what about creative cognition? Three large-scale brain networks are critical to understanding the neuroscience of creativity. Let’s review them here.

Network 1: The Executive Attention Network

The Executive Attention Network is recruited when a task requires that the spotlight of attention is focused like a laser beam. This network is active when you’re concentrating on a challenging lecture, or engaging in complex problem solving and reasoning that puts heavy demands on working memory. This neural architecture involves efficient and reliable communication between lateral (outer) regions of the prefrontal cortex and areas toward the back (posterior) of the parietal lobe.

Network 2: The Imagination Network

According to Randy Buckner and colleagues, the Default Network (referred to here as the Imagination Network) is involved in “constructing dynamic mental simulations based on personal past experiences such as used during remembering, thinking about the future, and generally when imagining alternative perspectives and scenarios to the present.” The Imagination Network is also involved in social cognition. For instance, when we are imagining what someone else is thinking, this brain network is active. The Imagination Network involves areas deep inside the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe (medial regions), along with communication with various outer and inner regions of the parietal cortex.

Green= The Executive Attention Network; Red= The Imagination Network

Network 3: The Salience Network

The Salience Network constantly monitors both external events and the internal stream of consciousness and flexibly passes the baton to whatever information is most salient to solving the task at hand. This network consists of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortices [dACC] and anterior insular [AI] and is important for dynamic switching between networks.

The Neuroscience of Creative Cognition: A First Approximation

The key to understanding the neuroscience of creativity lies not only in knowledge of large-scale networks, but in recognizing that different patterns of neural activations and deactivations are important at different stages of the creative process. Sometimes, it’s helpful for the networks to work with each other, and sometimes such cooperation can impede the creative process.

In a recent large review, Rex Jung and colleagues provide a “first approximation” regarding how creative cognition might map on to the human brain. Their review suggests that when you want to loosen your associations, allow your mind to roam free, imagine new possibilities, and silence the inner critic, it’s good to reduce activation of the Executive Attention Network (a bit, but not completely) and increase activation of the Imagination and Salience Networks. Indeed, recent research on jazz musicians and rappers engaging in creative improvisation suggests that’s precisely what is happening in the brain while in a flow state.

However, sometimes it’s important to bring the Executive Attention Network back online, and critically evaluate and implement your creative ideas.

Or else this can happen:

As Jung and colleagues note, their model of the structure of creative cognition is only a first approximation. At this point, we just have leads on the real neuroscience of creativity. The investigation of large-scale brain networks does appear to be a more promising research direction than investigating the left and right hemispheres; the creative process appears to involve the dynamic interplay of these large-scale networks. Also, converging research findings do suggest that creative cognition recruits brain regions that are critical for daydreaming, imagining the future, remembering deeply personal memoriesconstructive internal reflectionmeaning making, and social cognition.

Nevertheless, much more research is needed that investigates how the brain creates across different domains, species, and timescales.

It’s an exciting time for the neuroscience of creativity, as long as you ditch outdated notions of how creativity works. This requires embracing the messiness of the creative process and the dynamic brain activations and collaborations among many different brains that make it all possible.

© 2013 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved link to <>

Disclaimer: I was one of the reviewer’s of the paper by Rex Jung and colleagues.

Note: For more on the latest findings in the emerging neuroscience of creativity, I highly recommend the recent book “Neuroscience of Creativity,” edited by Oshin Vartanian, Adam S. Bristol, and James C. Kaufman.

* There’s some grain of truth to the left brain/right brain distinction. For instance, spatial reasoning recruits more structures in the right hemisphere, and language processing recruits more structures in the left hemisphere. Also, there’s some really interesting research conducted by John Kounios and Mark Beeman showing that the Aha! moment of insight– in which participants discover seemingly unrelated words– is associated with activation of the right anterior superior temporal gyrus. None of these findings, however, negate the fact that the entire creative process involves the whole brain.

image credit #1: io9; image credit #2, 3, & 5:; image credit #4:pnas; image credit #6: photocase

This article originally appeared at Scientific American