Art, Creativity, and Your Manifesting Prowess


A while back I started hearing this inner voice asking me to draw… to create more art. It was something that as a kid I did all the time. But somewhere along the way, I stopped creating art. It seemed like if it didn’t have a particular purpose, then what was the point?!

did create process art to work through my emotional ups and downs, but art for the sake of just making art wasn’t really happening anymore. I got pencils and pens, but I still didn’t create much. I kept getting into this place of perfectionism. I would get frustrated because what I was making wouldn’t look exactly right or I didn’t know quite how to do it anymore.

But my inner wisdom wouldn’t let up. There was something more going on than just my inner artist wanting to paint. This was about getting an energy flowing in my life… creative energy flowing.

 

So I picked up some watercolor pens a few weeks ago. I thought painting might be easier than drawing. My inner critic might then take a rest. And so far I have loved the pens. I got some water pens too so I can do a little sketch and add some color if I want anywhere without an elaborate setup. Because for me to do this, it had to be simple.

With pens in hand, I gave myself the challenge to create a drawing every day. I haven’t quite gotten to it daily, but close. Some days it’s a little sketch; some days I spend more time on it.

Here’s what I’m learning…

I have to keep coming back to this place of permission to do something just for the sake of doing; to be a beginner and trust the process. That beginner’s mindset can be an uncomfortable place. I have to let myself be okay with screw-ups and a whole lot of ugly sketches!

It’s the doing, though, that’s important. And that’s the bigger lesson here. We create by going into the unknown. We manifest new things in our lives, things we don’t yet have experience with. Our own growth is about manifesting change as we step into the unknown. We have to give ourselves opportunities to practice that and to become comfortable with stepping into something that is unfamiliar.

Creating is a journey; even when you are creating new versions of you.

I think there’s a lot of energetic “talk” out there about being the vibration that you want to be… what you want to create. I think it confuses a lot of people because they believe that they must be familiar with the fullness of that expression, the end result of what they want to create in order to move forward. But if you don’t know what that energy really is, or what it feels like, then how can you possibly be that yet?

My guides always say, “Just begin; that’s how you’ll find your way.”

My inner wisdom wasn’t asking me to become an artist. She was asking me to practice creating and embrace all the messiness and uncertainty in that. She wanted me to practice not waiting for some awareness of my final destination, but find it as I went along. She wanted me to get back into the energy of creative process and observe how that gets played out in all I do.

Every drawing lets me practice who I am as a creator.

This 10-Minute Routine Before and After Sleep Will Increase Your Creativity and Clarity.


“Your subconscious mind works continuously, while you are awake, and while you sleep.”–Napoleon Hill.

 

Your subconscious never rests and is always on duty because it controls your heartbeat, blood circulation, and digestion. It controls all the vital processes and functions of your body and knows the answers to all your problems.

What happens on your subconscious level influences what happens on your conscious level. In other words, what goes on internally, even unconsciously, eventually becomes your reality. As Hill further states, “The subconscious mind will translate into its physical equivalent, by the most direct and practical method available.”

Consequently, your goal is to direct your subconscious mind to create the outcomes you seek. Additionally, you want to tap into your subconscious mind to unlock connections and solutions to your problems and projects.

Here’s a simple routine to get started:

Ten minutes before going to sleep:

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”–Thomas Edison

It’s common practice for many of the world’s most successful people to intentionally direct the workings of their subconscious mind while they’re sleeping.

How?

Take a few moments before you go to bed to meditate on and write down the things you’re trying to accomplish.

Ask yourself loads of questions related to that thing. In Edison’s words, make some “requests.” Write those questions and thoughts down on paper. The more specific the questions, the more clear will be your answers.

While you’re sleeping, your subconscious mind will get to work on those things.

Ten minutes after waking up:

Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Your subconscious mind has been loosely mind-wandering while you slept, making contextual and temporal connections. Creativity, after all, is making connections between different parts of the brain.

In a recent interview with Tim Ferriss, Josh Waitzkin, former chess prodigy and tai chi world champion, explains his morning routine to tap into the subconscious breakthroughs and connections experienced while he was sleeping.

Unlike 80 percent of people between the ages of 18-44 who check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, Waitzkin goes to a quiet place, does some meditation and grabs his journal.

In his journal, he thought-dumps for several minutes. Thus, rather than focusing on input like most people who check their notifications, Waitzkin’s focus is on output. This is how he taps into his higher realms of clarity, learning, and creativity–what he calls, “crystallized intelligence.”

If you’re not an experienced journal writer, the idea of “thought-dumping” may be hard to implement. In my experience, it’s good to loosely direct your thought-dumping toward your goals.

Consider the “requests” you made of your subconscious just before going to bed. You asked yourself loads of questions. You thought about and wrote down the things you’re trying to accomplish.

Now, first thing in the morning, when your creative brain is most attuned, after its subconscious workout while you slept, start writing down whatever comes to mind about those things.

I often get ideas for articles I’m going to write while doing these thought-dumps. I get ideas about how I can be a better husband and father to my three foster children. I get clarity about the goals I believe I should be pursuing. I get insights about people I need to connect with, or how I can improve my current relationships.

Conclusion:

“A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.”–James Allen

Mental creation always precedes physical creation. Before a building is physically constructed, there’s a blueprint.

Your thoughts are the blueprint of the life you are building one day at a time. When you learn to channel your thinking–both consciously and subconsciously–you create the conditions that make the achievement of your goals inevitable.

You are the designer of your destiny. This simple routine will help you crystallize where you want to go, and how you will get there

SCIENTISTS USE BRAIN STIMULATION TO BOOST CREATIVITY, SET STAGE TO POTENTIALLY TREAT DEPRESSION


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A UNC School of Medicine study has provided the first direct evidence that a low dose of electric current can enhance a specific brain pattern to boost creativity by an average of 7.4 percent in healthy adults, according to a common, well-validated test of creativity.

This research, published in the journal Cortex, showed that using a 10-Hertz current run through electrodes attached to the scalp enhanced the brain’s natural alpha wave oscillations – prominent rhythmic patterns that can be seen on an electroencephalogram, or EEG.

“This study is a proof-of-concept,” said senior author Flavio Frohlich, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, cell biology and physiology, biomedical engineering, and neurology. “We’ve provided the first evidence that specifically enhancing alpha oscillations is a causal trigger of a specific and complex behavior – in this case, creativity. But our goal is to use this approach to help people with neurological and psychiatric illnesses. For instance, there is strong evidence that people with depression have impaired alpha oscillations. If we could enhance these brain activity patterns, then we could potentially help many people.”

Frohlich, who is also a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, is now in collaboration with David Rubinow, MD, chair of the department of psychiatry, to use this particular kind of brain stimulation in two clinical trials for people with major depressive disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD – a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. Participant enrollment is now underway for both trials.

“The fact that we’ve managed to enhance creativity in a frequency-specific way – in a carefully-done double-blinded placebo-controlled study – doesn’t mean that we candefinitely treat people with depression,” Frohlich cautioned. “But if people with depression are stuck in a thought pattern and fail to appropriately engage with reality, then we think it’s possible that enhancing alpha oscillations could be a meaningful, noninvasive, and inexpensive treatment paradigm for them – similar to how it enhanced creativity in healthy participants”

Brain Rhythms

At the center of Frohlich’s research are neural oscillations – the naturally occurring rhythmic electrical patterns that neurons generate and repeat throughout the brain. Alpha oscillations occur within the frequency range of 8 and 12 Hertz 9 (or cycles per second). They were discovered in 1929 by Hans Berger, who invented EEG. Alpha oscillations occur most prominently when we close our eyes and shut out sensory stimuli – things we see, feel, taste, smell, and hear.

“For a long time, people thought alpha waves represented the brain idling,” Frohlich said. “But over the past 20 years we’ve developed much better insight. Our brains are not wasting energy, creating these patterns for nothing. When the brain is decoupled from the environment, it still does important things.

When alpha oscillations are prominent, your sensory inputs might be offline as you daydream, meditate, or conjure ideas. But when something happens that requires action, your brain immediately redirects attention to what’s going on around you. You come fully online, and the alpha oscillations disappear. Other oscillations at higher frequencies, such as gamma oscillations, take over.

Knowing this, other researchers began associating alpha oscillations with creativity. Frohlich set out to find evidence. His idea was simple. If he could enhance the rhythmic patterns of alpha oscillations to improve creativity, then it might be possible to enhance alpha oscillations to help people with depression and other conditions of the central nervous system that seem to involve the same brain patterns.

For three years, his lab has used computer simulations and other experiments to hone a technique to improve alpha oscillation.

For the Cortex study, Frohlich’s team enrolled 20 healthy adults. Researchers placed electrodes on each side of each participant’s frontal scalp and a third electrode toward the back of the scalp. This way, the 10-Hertz alpha oscillation stimulation for each side of the cortex would be in unison. This is a key difference in Frohlich’s method as compared to other brain stimulation techniques.

Each participant underwent two sessions. During one session, researchers used a 10-Hertz sham stimulation for just five minutes. Participants felt a little tingle at the start of the five minutes. For the next 25 minutes, each participant continued to take the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, a comprehensive and commonly used test of creativity. In one task, each participant was shown a small fraction of an illustration – sometimes just a bent line on a piece of paper. Participants used the line to complete an illustration, and they wrote a title when they finished.

In the other session each participant underwent the same protocol, except they were stimulated at 10 Hertz for the entire 30 minutes while doing the Torrance test. The tingling sensation only occurred at the start of the stimulation, ensuring that each participant did not know which session was the control session.

Because rating creativity or scoring a test can involve subjectivity, Frohlich sent each participant’s work to the company that created the test. “We didn’t even tell the company what we were doing,” Frohlich said. “We just asked them to score the tests.”

Then Frohlich’s team compared each participant’s creativity score for each session. He found that during the 30-minute stimulation sessions, participants scored an average 7.4 percentage points higher than they did during the control sessions.

“That’s a pretty big difference when it comes to creativity,” Frohlich said. “Several participants showed incredible improvements in creativity. It was a very clear effect.”

Pattern Specific

But there was a question. What if the electrical stimulation merely caused a general electric effect on the brain, independent of the alpha oscillation? To find out, Frohlich’s team conducted the same experiments but used 40 Hertz of electrical current, which falls in the gamma frequency band typically associated with sensory processing – when the brain is computing what we see or touch or hear.

“Using 40 Hertz, we saw no effect on creativity,” Frohlich said. “The effect we saw was specific to the 10-hertz alpha oscillations. There’s no statistical trickery. You just have to look at each participant’s test to see these effects.”

Frohlich said he understood some people might want to capitalize on this sort of study to boost creativity in their everyday lives, but he cautioned against it. “We don’t know if there are long-term safety concerns,” he said. “We did a well-controlled, one-time study and found an acute effect.”

“Also, I have strong ethical concerns about cognitive enhancement for healthy adults, just as sports fans might have concerns about athletic enhancement through the use of performance-enhancing drugs.”

Instead, Frohlich is focused on treating people with depression and other mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, for which cognitive deficits during everyday life is a major problem.

“There are people that are cognitively impaired and need help, and sometimes there are no medications that help or the drugs have serious side effects,” Frohlich said. “Helping these populations of people is why we do this kind of research.”

The Messy Minds of Creative People


Creativity is very messy.

According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages:  preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:

Or this:

The creative process– from the first drop of paint on the canvas to the art exhibition– involves a mix of emotions, drives, skills, and behaviors. It’d be miraculous if these emotions, traits and behaviors didn’t often conflict with each other during the creative process, creating inner and outer tension. Indeed, creative people are often seen as weird, odd, and eccentric.

Over the years, scientists have attempted to capture the personality of creative people. But it hasn’t been easy putting them under the microscope. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has interviewed creative people across various fields points out, creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”

So how can we possibly bring order to the messy minds of creators? A new paperoffers some hope. Psychologists Guillaume Furst, Paolo Ghisletta and Todd Lubart present an integrative model of creativity and personality that is deeply grounded in past research on the personality of creative people.

Bringing together lots of different research threads over the years, they identified three “super-factors” of personality that predict creativity: Plasticity, Divergence, and Convergence.

The Super-Factors of Personality

Plasticity consists of the personality traits openness to experience, extraversion, high energy, and inspiration.* The common factor here is high drive for exploration, and those high in this super-factor of personality tend to have a lot of dopamine– “the neuromodulator of exploration“– coursing through their brains. Prior research has shown a strong link between Plasticity and creativity, especially in the arts.

Divergence consists of non-conformity, impulsivity, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness. People high in divergence may seem like jerks, but they are often just very independent thinkers. This super-factor is close to Hans Eysenck’s concept of “Psychoticism“. Throughout his life, Eysenck argued that these non-conforming characteristics were important contributors to high creative achievements.

Finally, Convergence consists of high conscientiousness, precision, persistence, and critical sense. While not typically included in discussions of creativity, these characteristics are also important contributors to the creative process.

The researchers found that Convergence was strongly related to Plasticity. In other words, those who were open to new experiences, inspired, energetic, and exploratory tended to also have high levels of persistence and precision. The common factor here is most likely high energy. Perspiration and inspiration feed off each other, leading to even higher energy levels.

Nevertheless, these three super factors were at least partially distinct. For instance, those with high openness to experience and inspiration weren’t necessarily rebellious, impulsive, critical, or motivated to achieve.

Stages of Creativity

Critically, these three super-factors differed in importance depending on the stage of the creative process. While it’s true that the creative process is messy, scientists have at least put some order on things by agreeing on two broad classes of processes that work in cooperation to lead to high levels of creativity: Generation and Selection.

Generation consists of idea production and originality. During this stage, it’s crucial to silence the inner critic and imagine lots of different possibilities. This stage is all about quantity of ideas.

Generation is necessary but not sufficient for creativity, however. Selection helps make the ideas not only novel, but also valuable to society. The Selection stage involves processes such as criticism, evaluation, formalization, and elaboration of ideas. As Furst and colleagues note, “The ultimate goal of Selection is thus to form a coherent final product by providing a constant check during its development.”

Looking at the super-factors of personality, the researchers found that Plasticity and Divergence were most strongly related to the Generation stage of creativity. In contrast, Convergence was most strongly related to Selection. This makes sense, considering that creativity involves both processes relating to novelty and processes relating to usefulness. Indeed, the researchers found that the interaction of Generation and Selection was associated with both the intensity and achievement of everyday creative activities.**

But hold up, you may say. How can creativity be associated with all of these things: openness to experience, inspiration, high energy, impulsivity, rebelliousness, critical thinking, precision, and conscientiousness? Isn’t that contradictory?

Which brings us back to the beginning of this article. Creativity involves many different stages. Those who are capable of reaching the heights of human creative expression are those who have the capacity for all of these characteristics and behaviors within themselves and are flexibly able to switch back and forth between them depending on the stage of the creative process, and what’s most adaptive in the moment.

I told you creativity is messy.

Happy New Year! Thanks for supporting Beautiful Minds in 2014. Look out in 2015 for more insights on intelligence and creativity as well as a new book on the latest science of creativity, co-authored with Carolyn Gregoire.

© 2014 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved

* The researchers measured “extraversion”using the Big Five framework. Under this framework, extraversion consists of a collection of traits associated with high sensitivity to environmental rewards, including positive emotions, sociability, enthusiasm, novelty seeking, assertiveness, and self-confidence. This finding does notmean that introverts are less likely to be creative. In fact, research suggests that the sociability component of extraversion is not as strongly linked to creativity as the other components of extraversion. If anything, research shows that the capacity for solitude is essential for optimal creativity. The facets of extraversion that seem to be most crucial to creativity are those associated with enthusiasm, confidence, and ambition.

**Interestingly, selection alone was not related to creativity. In particular, they found that people who were really good at Selection showed reduced levels of creativity if their Generation skills were low. Therefore, Generation skills are essential to creativity, and while generation skills may compensate for lower levels of Selection ability, the highest levels of Selection in the world may not be able to help you create if you have very low Generation ability.

The science behind positive thinking your way to success.


Psychology expert RIchard Boyatzis says there is strong evidence to suggest that regular physical or leisure activities throughout the day stokes compassion and creativity at work.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activating our parasympathetic systems stokes compassion and creativity, say scientists
  • Positivity increases when workers are given more flexibility in their roles
  • Research shows chronic stress levels hinder professionals and those in leadership positions.

 

Editor’s note: “Thinking Business” focuses on the psychology of getting ahead in the workplace by exploring techniques to boost employee performance, increase creativity and productivity.

 Whether it’s infuriating colleagues, inept management or a lack of appreciation, the modern day workplace can be a positivity free zone.

Sometimes counting to ten or daydreaming of a desert island just won’t purge the everyday monotony of office life and it’s common to become trapped in a spiral of negativity.

But regular coffee breaks, yoga and even praying to a loving god could change all that.

Are we wired to be optimistic?

Leading the doodle revolution

Brain science behind One Direction fans

According to psychology expert Richard Boyatzis, these simple exercises can engage the parasympathetic nervous system — the function responsible for relaxation and slowing the heart rate — resulting in renewed optimism and improvements in working relationships.

Boyatzis, psychology and cognitive science professor at Case Western Reserve University, said there is strong neurological evidence supporting the theory that engaging our parasympathetic systems — through regular physical or leisure activities — stokes compassion and creativity.

Read more: Don’t get stuck in your own success

“Strain causes a person to be cognitively, perceptually and emotionally impaired,” he said, “if you’re under pressure and stress at work, then you can’t think outside the box because you can’t see the box.”

Boyatzis maintains that chronic stress levels hinder professionals and those in leadership positions from performing to their best. He argues that while we need stress to function and adapt, too much can cause the body to defend itself by closing down.

“You have to engage your parasympathetic nervous system so that you change your hormonal flow,” Boyatzis told CNN, adding that mood and positivity can be “infectious” in the workplace, particularly in positions of leadership.

He added: “If you’re having a horrible marriage, or your teenage kids are dissing you right and left, you get to work and it’s very likely that you are just a bummer.”

Read more: Training the brain to stress less

Evidence shows that positivity increases when workers are given increased flexibility in their roles and more work-life balance, according to a report on well-being and success produced by the World Economic Forum [WEF].

[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments.”
Sarah Lewis, chartered organizational psychologist.

Meanwhile, the report showed bad management and bullying in the workplace can have a damaging effect on employees’ physical and mental health.

Can positivity and happiness lead to success?

A recent study by the University of California entitled ‘Does Happiness Promote Career Success,’ professors concluded that ‘happy people’ are more satisfied with their jobs and report having greater autonomy in their duties.

Additionally, they perform better than their less happy peers and receive more support from coworkers.

Finally, positive individuals are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to be physically healthier and live longer.

And the debate over happiness and work goes way back in history. Ancient Greek philosopher Galen said employment is “nature’s physician, essential to human happiness.”

Read more: ‘Power naps’ may boost right-brain activity

Sarah Lewis, chartered organizational psychologist, told CNN that when people are positive at work it can lead to opportunities because they are more engaged and resilient:

“[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments,” she said “they go into the more difficult conversations and they’re more productive.”

But in a study entitled ‘Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?’ the results concluded that positive attitudes can sometimes lead to poor problem solving.

If you want to instigate behavioral change you need to engage the implicit system which operates in the subconscious realm.”
Reut Schwartz-Hebron, founder of the Key Change Institute

The study also stated that the evidence to suggest happy people are more popular and have superior coping abilities is “almost non-existent.”

Reut Schwartz-Hebron, founder of the Key Change Institute — an organization that focuses on workplace behavior — believes that a constant state of positivity in the workplace can be “dangerous.”

“There’s certain things that have to be challenged,” she said, “certain things that have to be improved you can’t just constantly think that everything is going to be fine and positive.”

Schwartz-Hebron — a former Israeli military lieutenant — said to improve working life, it is first necessary “to rewire your brain” by creating new experiences and engaging two different cerebral systems; the explicit and the implicit memory.

The explicit is responsible for storing information and facts while the implicit memory relies on previous experiences to perform a task and is associated with the subconscious.

“If you want to instigate behavioral change you need to engage the implicit system which operates in the subconscious realm,” said Schwartz-Hebron, who runs workshops for Fortune 500 companies.

She added: “We typically work in very, very negative environments because our expertise is actually in difficult change.”

“[The people we work with] don’t see the need for the change; they don’t feel the problem is being defined correctly or they don’t believe that the solution is correct.”

The study by the University of California concludes that while positive emotions are particularly important to encourage optimal success at work, it is important for employees and those in positions of leadership to experience both positive and negative feelings in day to day routine.

Money Isn’t a Dirty Word: How to Use Money to Serve Your Purpose.


“What we really want to do is what we are really meant to do. When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open for us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us.” ~ Julia Cameron

So many of us cringe at the image of a person who loves money. We tend to think it’s tacky, greedy, and not noble to strive to be rich. And for those of us who want to do work that serves the world in a positive way, money can start to feel like a dirty word.

how-to

And I’m here to change that.

I don’t believe money is the root of all evil. Nor do I believe money can buy happiness. But I do believe that when we can get rid of our hang-ups around money, it allows us to serve the world in a bigger way. Especially if your career is centered around doing good in the world, it’s important for you to embrace making money as a part of your making-a-difference strategy.

It’s time to stop shaming yourself for wanting to make money in your career or your passion-based business. You might think it’s noble to work for free or low cost and help the less fortunate, but there is nothing noble about not being able to pay your rent.

In order to do good in the world, you must be able to take care of yourself first. And when you do that, you stop playing small and you can fully step into what you were put here to do – fulfill your purpose through your work.

Here’s how you can start shifting your money mindset right now:

1. Acknowledge that what you do has value

And even more than that, acknowledge that who you are has value. All of us have our own unique gifts that we don’t think are that remarkable, when in fact, these are the very traits that others admire in us. The more you can play up who you are at your core, the more you will see the value that you bring to the world around you. And the more value you can find in your own self worth, just the way you are, the easier it is to see why people would pay you for these qualities. You are different and special, and you deserve to be paid well for doing that special thing that only you can do.

2. Start to love money

Like, really love it. Part of this practice is being grateful for all the things that money helps you do in your life. With money, you can buy yourself healthy organic food, you can support your local charities, you can give your kids an education. When you start to realize how the money you make is able to be filtered back into your life s a source of growth, you start to become grateful for every penny you earn, because you know it allows you to give back to yourself and your community.

3. Stop discounting money as something you don’t need

Stop discounting money as something you don’t need, and imagine a life where money flows freely. Recognize that you DO need money to live, and pay attention to how it would feel to no longer have to be penny pinching, or budgeting carefully every month. Imagine a life where you had all the money you wanted, more than you knew what to do with. How would you spend it? What would you do with it? Imagine the possibilities of how you could use that extra money as a force for good in the world, how many lives you could shape with it, how many of the world’s problems you could solve by re-investing it back into your community.  Start thinking of money as possibility instead of burden, and notice how much energy that brings to your purpose in the world. Money could help you build that school in Africa, or support your local animal shelter, or run the women’s group you volunteer at. Money is essential in helping support your purpose and passions.

When you stop fearing money and start allowing yourself to fall in love with it, doors open for you like you might never have imagined. Making money is not a sin and wanting money is not a sin. Money gives you the gift of taking care of yourself and those around you, which allows you to live a life that lets you help the world in a bigger way.

Money can be used as a force of good in the world. You just have to let it in.

Do you believe money is the root of all evil? What are some of the limiting beliefs you borrowed from others when it comes to money? Share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section bellow.

Source:Purpose fairy

Brain scans of rappers shed light on creativity.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows what happens in the brain during improvisation.

Rappers making up rhymes on the fly while in a brain scanner have provided an insight into the creative process.

Freestyle rapping — in which a performer improvises a song by stringing together unrehearsed lyrics — is a highly prized skill in hip hop. But instead of watching a performance in a club, Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun, neuroscientists at the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and their colleagues had 12 rappers freestyle in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.

The artists also recited a set of memorized lyrics chosen by the researchers. By comparing the brain scans from rappers taken during freestyling to those taken during the rote recitation, they were able to see which areas of the brain are used during improvisation. The study is published today in Scientific Reports1.

The results parallel previous imaging studies in which Braun and Charles Limb, a doctor and musician at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, looked at fMRI scans from jazz musicians2. Both sets of artists showed lower activity in part of their frontal lobes called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during improvisation, and increased activity in another area, called the medial prefrontal cortex. The areas that were found to be ‘deactivated’ are associated with regulating other brain functions.

“We think what we see is a relaxation of ‘executive functions’ to allow more natural de-focused attention and uncensored processes to occur that might be the hallmark of creativity,” says Braun.

He adds that this suggestion is “a little bit controversial in the literature”, because some studies have found activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in creative behaviour. He suggests that the discrepancy might have to do with the tasks chosen to represent creativity. In studies that found activation, the activities — such as those that require recall — may actually be less creative.

“We try to stick with more natural creative processing, and when we do that we see this decrease in the dorsal lateral regions,” says Braun.

Pump down the volume

Rex Jung, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, has also studied the link between brain structures and creativity, finding an inverse relationship between the volume of some frontal lobe structures and creativity3. “Some of our results imply this downregulation of the frontal lobes in service of creative cognition. [The latest paper] really appears to pull it all together,” he says. “I’m excited about the findings.”

Jung says that this downregulation is likely to apply in other, non-musical areas of creativity — including science.

The findings also suggest an explanation for why new music might seem to the artist to be created of its own accord. With less involvement by the lateral prefrontal regions of the brain, the performance could seem to its creator to have “occurred outside of conscious awareness”, the authors write.

Michael Eagle, a study co-author who raps under the name Open Mike Eagle, agrees: “That’s kind of the nature of that type of improvisation. Even as people who do it, we’re not 100% sure of where we’re getting improvisation from.”

Liu says that the researchers are now working on problems they were unable to explore with freestylers — such as what happens after the initial burst of creative inspiration.

“We think that the creative process may be divided into two phases,” he says. “The first is the spontaneous improvisatory phase. In this phase you can generate novel ideas. We think there is a second phase, some kind of creative processing [in] revision.”

The researchers would also like to look at how creativity differs between experts and amateurs of a similar artistic ilk to freestylers: poets and storytellers.

Watch the video on youtube.URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmreCiyV-Kc&feature=player_embedded

Source: Nature