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The Neuroscience of Creativity

Posts that explore brainscience and how the brain influences creativity

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity

We have been lead to believe that 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.

Thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists are on the forefront of investigating what actually happens in the brain during the creative process. And their findings are overturning conventional and overly simplistic notions surrounding the neuroscience of creativity. The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction does not offer us the full picture of how creativity is implemented in the brain.* Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Researchers tie unexpected brain structures to creativity — and to stifling it

A new study is the first to directly implicate the cerebellum in the creative process. As for the brain’s higher-level executive-control centers? Not so much. Investigators at Stanford University have found a surprising link between creative problem-solving and heightened activity in the cerebellum, a structure located in the back of the brain and more typically thought of as the body’s movement-coordination center.

Neuroscience research reveals creativity's brainprint

What is happening in the brain during periods of heightened creativity? In their recently published paper, Beaty and colleagues (2018) unearth the neurological signature of creativity, using sophisticated approaches to identify the neural network activity, the "brainprint" as it were, which is associated with divergent thinking, and then using that understanding to distinguish more creative from less creative brain activity. Of most interest is the reference to the “Big Three” brain networks — the default mode network, the executive control network, and the salience network“.

There isn't one "creativity" area in the brain; creativity emerges from the interplay of complex brain activity involving multiple more basic systems. The implications of this work, just in the early stages, are remarkable.

If You Think You’re a Genius, You’re Crazy

Many do suppose that creativity and psychopathology are intimately related and the notion that creative genius might have some touch of madness goes back to Plato and Aristotle. But some recent psychologists argue that the whole idea is a pure hoax. After all, it is certainly no problem to come up with the names of creative geniuses who seem to have displayed no signs or symptoms of mental illness.

Creative people’s brains really do work differently

What makes highly creative people different from the rest of us? In the 1960s, psychologist and creativity researcher Frank X. Barron set about finding out. Barron conducted a series of experiments on some of his generation’s most renowned thinkers in an attempt to isolate the unique spark of creative genius.

The idea that creativity relies on the “right brain” is an antiquated notion which looked to make simple sense of a much more complex union of cortices which help us interpret and make use of visual, auditory, sensory and motor region information. The general scientific consensus is that creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Related Topic: Domain Specificity of Creativity: Theory, Research, and Practice

Creativity has commonly been thought of either as a set of domain- general skills that can be applied broadly like a special kind of intelligence or as a general personality trait that colors a person’s approach to any kind of task or problem, but these ways of thinking about creativity are misleading. A better metaphor for creativity than either intelligence or a personality trait is expertise.

Related topic: A Cognitive Trick for Solving Problems Creatively

Many experts argue that creative thinking requires people to challenge their preconceptions and assumptions about the way the world works. One common claim, for example, is that the mental shortcuts we all rely on to solve problems get in the way of creative thinking. How can you innovate if your thinking is anchored in past experience? But I’m not sure that questioning biases from your past experience and assumptions is the best path to creative problem solving — it simply does not seem to fit well with how the mind actually works.

Related topic: Lower Working Memory Linked to Higher Levels of Divergent Thinking

Historically, cognitive scientists have viewed strong working memory ability as one of the major key components of intelligence. However, recent studies indicate that *lower* working memory, not higher, can come with it’s own slew of cognitive advantages, including superior divergent thinking and creative abilities.

Related topic: Artists 'have structurally different brains'

Artists have structurally different brains compared with non-artists, a study has found.

Participants' brain scans revealed that artists had increased neural matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery.

Creativity Is Much More Than 10,000 Hours of Deliberate Practice

Creators are not mere experts. Instead of deliberately practicing down an already existing path, they often create their own path for others to follow.

Mapping Creativity in the Brain

There are many types of creativity, but in recent years, researchers have begun to understand more about the kind of creative flow —the state that today is colloquially referred to as “being in the zone.”

In a 2008 study published in the journal PLOS, Charles Limb, an otolaryngologist at the University of California, San Francisco and accomplished jazz saxophonist, and Allen Braun, a speech researcher at the National Institutes of Health, designed a clever way to observe creative expression in the brain: an fMRI machine with a specially made musical keyboard. The two men recruited six professional jazz musicians for the study; while in the fMRI, the participants performed musical exercises ranging from a memorized scale to a fully improvised piece of music.

What Does A Creative Brain Look Like? Dr Charles Limb TED Interview from related TED talk

Learning Another Language Could Help Your Brain Function and Age Better, Finds New Study

Scientists found a strong argument for learning another language - bilingual people have an “advantage” because they use less brain power to accomplish tasks, helping their brains to age better.

According to Neuroscience, the 10 Most Relaxing Songs Ever

Everyone knows they need to manage their stress. When things get difficult at work, school, or in your personal life, you can use as many tips, tricks, and techniques as you can get to calm your nerves.

So here's a science-backed one: make a playlist of the 10 songs found to be the most relaxing on earth.

Related topic: Music and the brain

When Art Meets Neuroscience

For every scientific issue, there is a cultural equivalent. Art creates metaphors that make science more transparent for the non-scientists. This subject is particularly timely now, as images and ideas in neuroscience are widely circulated among the public. The brain is seen as the last frontier in research.

Related topic: Can Neuroscience Help Us Understand Art?

What is art? Why does it matter to us? What does it tell us about ourselves? It's something of the rage these days to turn to neuroscience for answers.

Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running

It is something of a cliché among runners, how the activity never fails to clear your head. Does some creative block have you feeling stuck? Go for a run. Are you deliberating between one of two potentially life-altering decisions? Go for a run. Are you feeling mildly mad, sad, or even just vaguely meh? Go for a run, go for a run, go for a run.

Related topics:Why a professor asks students to exercise in class

When Professor Wendy Suzuki turned 40, she realized that her social life didn’t match up to her professional life. Though she’d devoted her career to the neuroscience of memory, she’d amassed few cherished memories of her own.

Related topic: Which Type of Exercise Is Best for the Brain?

Research suggests that “sustained aerobic exercise might be most beneficial for brain health also in humans.” ....These results do not mean, however, that only running and similar moderate endurance workouts strengthen the brain, Dr. Nokia said. Those activities do seem to prompt the most neurogenesis in the hippocampus. But weight training and high-intensity intervals probably lead to different types of changes elsewhere in the brain. They might, for instance, encourage the creation of additional blood vessels or new connections between brain cells or between different parts of the brain.

So if you currently weight train or exclusively work out with intense intervals, continue. But perhaps also thread in an occasional run or bike ride for the sake of your hippocampal health.

Neuroscience Of Mindfulness: Make Your Mind Happy

Research is sowing how mindfulness works. It can help you be happier and help you reduce stress. But nobody’s ever explained it to you in a way that makes sense or doesn’t sound corny. We’ll look at how neuroscience and mindfulness line up, get real answers as to why our brains so often get anxious, sad, or angry and learn the research-backed way to be happier — and stay that way.

Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain

The business world is abuzz with mindfulness. But perhaps you haven’t heard that the hype is backed by hard science. Recent research provides strong evidence that practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness (a.k.a. mindfulness) changes the brain, and it does so in ways that anyone working in today’s complex business environment, and certainly every leader, should know about.

Related topic:New Science of the Creative Brain on Nature

Beautiful vistas and outdoor fun impact your brain in real ways, and the latest research is finally cracking exactly how—which means you're just trails away from becoming a better thinker.

In a 2012 study found that backpackers were 50 percent more creative after they had spent four days out on the trail. They were given several tests of creative thinking—for example, they were presented with a set of words (for example: blue, cake, cottage) and asked to figure out the unifying word (cheese). Upon their return, the hikers performed twice as well on the tests. “People were actually solving the problems more creatively after they had unplugged in nature,” he says.

Related topic: How Walking In Nature Changes The Brain

Researchers conducted a study which asked randomly selected participants to spend 50 minutes walking in either a natural or urban setting, and to submit to a series of psychological assessments before and after the walk. They found that volunteers who walked through a lush, green portion of Stanford campus showed improve cognitive function and mood compared to those who walked near heavy traffic for the same period of time. However, while this study showed that nature could have a positive effect on mental well-being, it did not examine the neurological mechanisms underlying this change.

Related Topic: Bad Habits That Destroy Your Creativity

If you think some people are born creative and you're not one of them, think again. What makes some people more creative than others is that they nurture their creativity. In fact, experts say that creativity is primarily a learned skill. And like any other skill you want to learn, it requires that you put in some hard work and effort. Read about the eight of the worst creativity killers.

Related topic:What Negative Thinking Does to Your Brain

If you’ve ever found yourself trapped in a seemingly endless loop of negative thinking, or wondered why you fixate on a stray rude comment but easily forget compliments, you may have a culprit to blame: evolution. Accordingto Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist, humans are evolutionarily wired with a negativity bias. Our minds naturally focus on the bad and discard the good. It was much more important for our ancestors to avoid threats than to collect rewards: An individual who successfully avoided a threat would wake up the next morning and have another opportunity to collect a reward, but an individual who didn’t avoid the threat would have no such opportunity.Thus, the human brain evolved to focus on threats.

Scientists identify body language tied to creativity & learning

Your body language can hint at your emotional state. Scientists now find that observing subtle changes in your torso and head movements can predict creative output or learning ability. The research reveals that quantitative analysis of such nonverbal cues can indicate a person's ability to learn and the strength of their creative skills.

Insights for Success from Neuroscience

For the seeker of enlightenment, there is nothing to fear and much to learn from the secrets of neuroscience. Brain tricks — sometimes called hacks — are mental shortcuts designed to enhance life’s success.

Related topic: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives

Dr. Carol Dweck's research has to do with how we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality. A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.

Related topic: 20 Must-Know Facts to Harness Neuroplasticity and Improve Brain Health

Related topic: The neuroscience of creativity

Neuroscientific investigations often cross the borders between scientific disciplines; they walk boldly from biology to psychology and stride straight through to the other side, dipping their toe - and sometimes their entire leg - in the murky waters of philosophy.

Related topic: What neuroscience teaches us about creativity

Joel Can, cognitive scientist. His research is part of that recent revolution to fully understand the brain and how creativity works.

“I think creativity, from a neurological standpoint, is a collection of cognitive abilities and tendencies, that, when applied to a problem or pursuit, result in the creation of something that is appropriate to the problem/pursuit, and also new/original in some sense.”

Related topic: Obama Launches BRAIN Initiative to Map the Human Brain

The BRAIN initiative’s goal is just as lofty as space travel: understanding and mapping the human brain.

“This is a bold, creative, wonderful experiment.”

How to Trick your Brain into Making Smarter Mistakes

Humans are primed to notice our mistakes—notice our boss is upset with us, notice our audience is bored, notice that tone of disapproval in our parent’s voice. These act as trip-wires in our brains and make us less rational, less creative, less productive, and less happy. From an evolutionary point of view, what got us here—our negativity bias—won’t get us there, wherever it is we're trying to go with our personal and professional lives. So what is there to do?

Related topic: 20 Cognitive Biases That Affect Your Decisions

Business Insider recently sifted through a pile of research to create the infographic below, which highlights 20 of the most common cognitive biases that can lead to bad decision-making, including the idea that the more information you have, the more likely you are to make the smartest choice.

Electrical brain stimulation enhances creativity

Safe levels of electrical stimulation can enhance your capacity to think more creatively, according to a new study by Georgetown researchers. The team used Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to stimulate an area of the brain known to be associated with creativity in combination with giving test subjects verbal cues to think more creatively.

Neuroplasticity: You Can Teach An Old Brain New Tricks

Your brain is more flexible than we've ever thought before. It changes because it is constantly optimizing itself, reorganizing itself by transferring cognitive abilities from one lobe to the other, particularly as you age. After a stroke, for instance, your brain can reorganize itself to move functions to undamaged areas.

And yet, due to the lifestyles we lead we tend to not make full use of our brains.

There’s this persistent notion that we use a mere 10 percent of our brains at any given moment. If only we could tap into more of the magnificent, squishy machine in our heads, we’d become quicker, cleverer versions of ourselves. It’d be a lovely idea if it wasn’t a crock of crap.

Although the ten percent notion has been debunked ad nauseum by neuroscientists, its recurrent appearance in pop culture (most recently in the film Lucy) shows that this particular misconception is very much alive and kicking. Now, a team of MIT researchers has put yet another nail in the myth’s proverbial coffin. Their study, shows how our brains fire up in many different cortical regions—ones that were thought to be reserved for separate functions—when we’re performing simple cognitive tasks.

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