Last Night's Viewing: Horizon: The Creative Brain - How Insight Works, BBC2
Prisoners' Wives, BBC1

 

I sometimes wonder what our phrenology or phlogiston will turn out to be. There's bound to be one – a field of science that is all the rage for a time, but then turns out to be a bit of an embarrassment, even though it feints in the right kind of direction.

I sometimes wonder whether neural mapping might qualify, though mostly when I encounter it through the medium of popular-science programmes, which are always over-eager to pinpoint the location of a particular human trait or quality in some obscure convolution of the brain. In Horizon: The Creative Brain – How Insight Works, the quality in question was "ah-ha!", that light bulb moment at which a previously impenetrable conceptual murk suddenly disappears.

You may not be hugely surprised to find that "you need to think outside the box", a phrase now only used by those who've simply found a bigger box to put the original box in. You also need to use the right hemisphere of your brain –MRI studies and brain-teaser exercises having established that the neuronal wiring is different on one side of the brain than on the other.

The left has high bandwidth and short connections while the right sends longer connections snaking out into different regions of the brain. And if you feel that this is a rather vague rendition of a complex matter, I would reply that I can only work with what I'm given, and Horizon's narration was at times infuriating fudgy about the precise nature of the mechanisms involved.

Take, for example, its explanation of the finding that creative types turn out to have less white matter – the central wiring system of the brain – than the norm. This means that nerve traffic is slowed down and, I quote, "this cognitive slowdown... makes it more likely for ideas to connect with each other." Do "ideas" travel as discrete entities, then? And if they do, how do they "connect" with each other? Do they pull into some neural layby and compare notes? The explanation raises more questions than it actually answers.

But I suspect we're not meant to worry about actually understanding the mechanisms involved, only on taking in the consumer advice, which involved breaking your routines and exposing yourself to unexpected experiences. Oh, and any mundane activity that will stop those poker-up-the-ass frontal lobes from hogging the conversation and give the wacky guys back in the anterior superior temporal gyrus a chance to get a word in edgeways. I speak metaphorically, being no better than Horizon at the mind-twisting challenge of simplifying the mysteries of novel thought.

"Do you or any of your family have any known enemies?" a policeman asked Francesca at the beginning of the new series of Prisoners' Wives. Since Francesca is married to a notorious local crime boss and had just had her house petrol-bombed, the question seemed a touch unnecessary to me, but Francesca bore it with fortitude. She was much less calm when, after being pressed by her husband to deliver a peace overture to his chief rival, the chief rival's stomach suddenly exploded all over her, thanks to the heavy behind him with the sawn-off shotgun.

This rather dropped Francesca in it, though I suppose she could always have a crack at pleading marital coercion if she ever gets linked to the murder. Having husbands in jail turns out to be a very flexible basis for a drama series, by the way. Good actresses get a relatively rare chance to take the lion's share of the lines and you can mix in your long-term prisoners (narrative continuity) with new arrivals (narrative refreshment).

Francesca and Harriet are back and joined for this series by Kim and Aisling (husband charged with sexual abuse of a minor and father convicted of handling stolen goods respectively). It's popular, mainstream drama at its best, I'd say. Somebody's light bulbs went on.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect