Scientists have found that creative people have the ability to simultaneously engage three different brain networks at once, two of which typically oppose each other.
Where does creativity lie in our brain?
Creativity can manifest in a lot of ways. It can manifest in paintings, literary masterpieces, a piece of music, an excellent invention, or a new approach to an old problem. Not everyone who’s creative is artistic, and just as everyone possesses some degree of creativity, not everyone can be creative “geniuses”.
We all encounter daily tasks and problems that can be solved with a little creativity. From figuring out what to make for dinner from a collection of ingredients to writing a novel or building a new app, there’s a whole range of creative tasks that we’re able to do. Of course, we aren’t all able to do all these things, since there are differences in what we’re all able to do. What, therefore, makes some people more creative than others?
Some tasks, such as writing a poem or a speech, require a different sort of creativity than others.
While everyone’s creativity is different, the creative process as it takes place in the brain may not be so specialized in each individual person. According to a new study, the brains of creative people exhibit specific patterns in activity that may indicate the most creative among us.
The researchers asked a group of 163 participants to perform tasks while they lay inside a brain scanner. These tasks are part of a test called the “alternate uses task”, which tests divergent thinking. Participants in this test are then given 12 seconds to think of new and imaginative uses for common objects that flash on a screen in front of them. The researchers used objects such as a gum wrapper or a sock. One participant suggested that the sock be used to warm feet, which is already a known and common function of a sock. Another, however, suggested that the sock be used as a water filtration system.
According to the results, most creative people possessed strong connectivity between three different brain networks. One is the default mode network, which is involved in spontaneity and enables our mind to wander. The second is the executive control network, which becomes active when people focus on their thoughts. Lastly, there’s the salience network, which determines what best deserves our attention.
Will taking classes in a craft improve our creativity?
The researchers say that the default mode network and the executive control network, which work to seemingly opposing ends, usually don’t work at the same time as each other. When one is activated, the other goes inactive. However, highly creative people have the ability to engage all three networks at the same time. This may be what we actually mean when we say that creative people are “wired” differently.
The findings are also consistent with the brain scans of artists such as jazz musicians, writers, and illustrators in the process of engaging in their craft. However, more research is necessary to determine if these networks are more or less rigid. It’s possible that classes and training in painting, for example, may lead to better connectivity between the three networks. Maybe we can boost our creativity by training our brain to do so.
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