The Human Guide to Our Creative Brain

On February 1, 2015, the Nova Institute (known as The Institute for Integrative Health at the time) partnered with the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) to present a fascinating dive into the wonders of the creative mind.

The afternoon of public visionary learning celebrated unexpected moments of creative inspiration with presentations by noted artists, altered-state experiencers, and scientific researchers, including Institute Scholars George Brainard and Richard Hammerschlag, and Nova Institute President Brian Berman.


The keynote speaker was author, inventor, and entrepreneur Dr. Martine Rothblatt, the founder and chairman of United Therapeutics Corporation, and creator of both GeoStar and SiriusXM Radio.

The conference also featured visionary artist and math savant Jason Padgett, whose fractal artwork was part of an AVAM exhibition. Padgett spoke about his life-changing experience fueled by a brutal beating that left him with both a severe brain injury and an inexplicable transformation into a “mathematical genius.” Padgett’s art explores the geometry and fractals that he now sees embedded throughout everyday life, and raises the question of whether extraordinary abilities like his lie dormant in us all.

Other presenters included:

Andrew Newberg, MD, a pioneer in the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences, a field known as “neurotheology.” Dr. Newberg is the director of research at the Jefferson Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine, a physician at Jefferson University Hospital, and has served as a past AVAM collaborator in its All Faiths Beautiful exhibition.

Robert R. Provine, PhD, an internationally renowned author, neuroscientist, and a Professor of Psychology Emeritus of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Dr. Provine has studied the development and evolution of the nervous system and is an expert in behaviors such as laughter, hiccupping, yawning, and more. Dr. Provine was also a key content partner in AVAM’s popular exhibition What Makes Us Smile?

Nova Institute Scholar George Brainard, PhD, director of the Light Research Program at Thomas Jefferson University. Professor Brainard has studied the effects of light on the biology and behavior of animals and humans for more than 30 years and is a prime designer of lighting to enhance optimal astronaut function, sleep cycles, and overall human health. 

Thomas McNear, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army (Ret.), the first member of the Army’s Stargate program to be personally trained in Coordinate Remote Viewing (CRV) by legendary remote viewer, psychic, and artist Ingo Swann. Swann’s cosmic paintings were featured in AVAM’s current mega-exhibition The Visionary Experience, and part of the museum’s growing permanent collection. 

Nova Institute Scholar Emeritus Richard Hammerschlag, PhD, who became founding director of research at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine after an accomplished 25-year career in neurobiology research. Dr. Hammerschlag studies the physiological mechanisms through which biofield therapies, such as reiki and healing touch, produce a therapeutic effect.

Meredith Davies Hadaway, retired professor from Washington College, musician and harpist participating in Music for Healing & Transition, a nonprofit organization that trains practitioners to provide live, acoustic music to create a healing environment to serve the ill, the dying, and those who care for them.

Nova Institute President Brian Berman, MD, a pioneer in integrative medicine, tenured professor of family and community medicine, founder and former director of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Berman shared his early use of Kirlian photography of bio-energetic fields to help in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases including pain and addiction.