The 60-year-old [Michael Salcman] is former chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and is past president of the prestigious Congress of Neurological Surgeons. He also is a poet and avid collector of modern art, and has been thinking for his entire career about brains and how they form ideas. Since 1979, Salcman has published his hypotheses on the creative process in such medical journals as Neurosurgery and the Journal of Neurophysiology.
The human brain contains roughly a trillion neurons, and each neuron has 10,000 synapses -- which means that each man, woman and child has roughly 10 quadrillion connections (or 1016) in a 14- ounce organ roughly the size and color of a cauliflower. "The number of connections in the human brain approaches the numbers of stars in the universe," Salcman says. "Both systems are about equally complex."
As Salcman sees it, the brain doesn't merely sift all the data and devise one metaphor; it presents us with several. When [Yeats] saw the moon, he probably had a great many other thoughts about that glowing, white sphere: some that were prosaic, some that were irrelevant, but one that was just right.