The results of a fascinating study of jazz musicians are giving scientists a clearer picture of where creativity comes from in your brain.
How, precisely did they do this? Dr. Charles Limb decided it would be good to compare the brain of a jazz musician when he (or she) was alternately playing by memory and going off on an improvised riff. The only problem was, how, exactly, to accomplish it. The usual procedure is to put a person inside a MRI machine and measure changes in oxygen that signify various different parts of the brain being utilized.
However, it is just the wee-est bit difficult to fit a jazz musician and his instrument inside a MRI machine.
So what they did was have a special metal-less keyboard designed and then had jazz pianists play both memorized tunes and riffs while inside the MRI.
The results? Creativity in the form of jazz improv utilized the same parts of the brain as dreaming. First of all inhibition switched off and then self expression switched on. The musicians also showed heightened sensory awareness, with areas associated with touch, hearing and sight lighting up.
How cool is that? That there are actually places in the brain where our creativity comes from just fascinates me.
Dr. Limb cautions that the brain of an artist or writer might well function differently from a musician and he hopes to test artists and writers next. Um, Dr. Limb? I’ll volunteer. Anything to make the process of sitting down to write a little easier.
Apparently what this research will be most useful for is research into brain damage and diseases such as Parkinson’s (which a very close friend of mine just got diagnosed with).
But the lesson seems clear enough to me: all we have to do to be creative is let go of our inhibitions and let self expression fly. I’ve been in that flow before. Its the best thing ever, so much so that most of my life is spent in an effort to return to that state.
I got so carried away I almost forgot the link. You can read the story here.