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Creativity in the Brain

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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What’s going on in the brain when we reason, create, and imagine?

A group of thoughtful cognitive neuroscientists have been unraveling some of creativity’s mysterious origins (see “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity” or the recent edited volume “Neuroscience of Creativity”).

What has become clear is that the left brain/right brain distinction is an oversimplification, and depending on what you are creating — the stimulus, the content– and what stage of the creative process you are in– preparation, incubation, illumination, or verification– different brain areas work together to help solve the task.

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a talk at PopTech 2013 on some of the latest emerging themes on the neuroscience of creativity:

I also recently had a fun conversation with Video Scientist Boonsri Dickinson:

She even convinced me to sing musical theatre in Washington Square Park. View at your own risk!:

It’s an exciting time for the neuroscience of creativity, but we still have a very long way to go to come to a complete understanding of one of humanity’s most important resources.

© 2013 Scott Barry Kaufman, All Rights Reserved

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Scott Barry Kaufman About the Author: Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow on Twitter @sbkaufman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. tuned 1:47 pm 11/27/2013

    I think that I shall never see,
    a tree as busy as a bee.

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  2. 2. Arbeiter 3:46 pm 11/27/2013

    Imagination is intelligence having fun. Sum eldritch ability, pathological desire, knowledge plus understanding, and surplus in which to perform. 1) Identify the Severely and Profoundly Gifted earliest – large skull circumference, autistic, objective performance. 2) Abundantly educate their appetites. 3) Give the winners something to do, but not enough.

    An amputated limp, hearing deficit, or the Gifted amidst the diverse isolates brain connection. Quiet is intolerable, hence phantom limbs, tinnitus, and cafard. Respective cures are mirror boxes, loud tones at audiogram dips, and Google, Inc. HR corporate cultures deny laughter’s plural is slaughter.

    When Mozart sat at a keyboard, he saw music. How dare they try to end that beauty by demanding proven inability is qualifying.

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  3. 3. magicalmarta 4:58 pm 11/27/2013

    I’m really interested in studies you may be aware of tracking imagination activation in adult brains. This idea seems ignored in research outside of Vygotsky. Keep up the great work. The world needs a contemporary, neuroscience view of creativity linked to imagination!

    Link to this
  4. 4. sauIt 10:03 pm 11/27/2013

    Creativity has gotten us all into a fine mess with our CO2-poisoned Earth hanging in the balance. We think we’re so clever, holding the natural ice age cycle at bay, depriving Woolly Mammoths of their rightful place at the helm of Earth. A pox on creativity and opposable thumbs.

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