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Description: Ok here is a neurological question. Creativity involves coming up with something new right? But not just new … something new that works or fits or otherwise impress, like a novel solution to an old problem or a new story or mystery plot line. So how does out brain come up with new things when a huge part of how our brain develops and works involves figuring out what is adaptive (like avoiding looking for food over where that bear was wandering around last week) and then sticking to what we have figure out is adaptive. In that light creativity can be downright dangerous. Perhaps that is why we are so comfortable with the idea that creativity and craziness (madness) go together. Think about what might have to happen in the brain for us to be creative and then read the article linked below which talks about a recent study that looked at precisely this question.

Source: Brainwaves suppress obvious ideas to help us think more creatively, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: December 10, 2018

Photo Credit: dragonstock / Fotolia

 Article Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181210150622.htm

I have often said in my classes that human memory is built on associations.  His means that we are built (or it is adaptive for us to) see the similarities between things or situations in front of us and things we have seen before. It is adaptive because we can recognize tasty food or spoiled or otherwise noxious foods and other such things, but it is NOT adaptive in the sense that it makes it less likely we will try anything new. That is the problem of creativity. Basically, the researchers in the article linked above demonstrated that right temporal lobe brainwaves called alpha oscillations assist us in ignoring the obvious associations and make creativity possible. While there ARE individual differences in creativity it is not clear if this relates to different levels of production of alpha oscillations, but it seems like a good hypothesis. As well, as the researchers indicate the other fascinating questions is how we all balance these two potential processing routes of creativity and relying on past associations and adaptations. But one take home message is reinforced by this research—if you want to be creative try and ignore the obvious!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How are creativity and adaptation related?
  2. How are creativity and adaptation incorporated in the functioning of the brain?
  3. What might some of the implications of this research be (think science fiction rather than thinking ethically)?

References (Read Further):

Caroline Di Bernardi Luft, Ioanna Zioga, Nicholas M. Thompson, Michael J. Banissy, Joydeep Bhattacharya. Right temporal alpha oscillations as a neural mechanism for inhibiting obvious associations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201811465 https://qmro.qmul.ac.uk/xmlui/bitstream/handle/123456789/54155/Bernardi%20Right%20temporal%20alpha%202018%20Published.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Zeki, S. (2001). Artistic creativity and the brain. Science, 293(5527), 51-52. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Semir_Zeki/publication/11900406_Essays_on_science_and_society_Artistic_creativity_and_the_brain/links/549d57ca0cf2fedbc3119203/Essays-on-science-and-society-Artistic-creativity-and-the-brain.pdf

DeFelipe, J. (2011). The evolution of the brain, the human nature of cortical circuits, and intellectual creativity. Frontiers in neuroanatomy, 5, 29. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnana.2011.00029

Dietrich, A. (2004). The cognitive neuroscience of creativity. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 11(6), 1011-1026. https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/BF03196731

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