The emergent field of Neuroscience and Creativity studies has experienced a great boom in recent years.
For many people -influenced by the perspectives of 19th century Romanticism– creativity remains an unattainable mystery for science (Boden, 2013). However, currently the focus of cognitive neuroscience has renewed the study of creative processes and our ability to realize novel productions. Despite all this advances there is no absolute standard to judge creativity and the evaluation of innovative products still suppose some kind of social consensus (Lautrey and Lubart, 1998).
It could be argued that the “magical” creative synthesis occurs when divergent thinking (the generation of creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions) and the convergent (using logic and what we already know to find the definitive answer) work harmoniously. This condition involves a clear balance between the stable and flexible systems of the brain, and contribute to achieving a state of “creative flow”… those moments that lead to high productivity, to the flexible combination of memories, and to the successful inhibition of intrusive habits or preconceived ways of thinking. This way we are enabled to connect clearly with the action and perception to be executed (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
To better understand the anatomy of the “flow experiences” is necessary to comprehend that this event not only includes the cognitive dimension, but also the emotional: the ability to achieve a pleasure sometimes described as a state of ecstasy. “Flow” occurs when someone is completely involved in a activity that is a challenge and only he/she cares about the undertaked task in order to reach the desired objective (Bilder, 2015).
It is evident to all of us that some types of creativity have been considered valuable only after decades or centuries of being produced (abstract painting or jazz music are only some examples). Therefore it may be impossible to determine if something can be considered a creative product at the moment in which it is embodied since the aforementioned piece could be considered a work of art in the future.
From an academic point of view creativity and scientific productivity are often seen simply from the perspective of the accumulation of citations that these kind of works require. However from a temporal and historical perspective it is better to judge the quality and creative novelty by the degree of transformation that it produceses in its field or discipline (Bilder, 2015).
Creative solutions usually require divergent thinking (generation of ideas by exploring many possible solutions), in addition to the flexibility in restructuring and manipulating information about a problem (Kleibeuker et al, 2013). Recent studies show that creative thinking emerges from 2 parts of our brain called Imaginative Network and the Executive Attention Network. Engaging many regions of the Medial Surface (in the frontal, parietal and temporal lobe areas of the Encephalon) the Imaginative Network allows us to build personal meaning of our experiences, remember the past, think about the future, imagine other perspectives and scenarios, understand stories, and reflect this in mental and emotional states. It seems that when we generate new ideas these networks -together with the Salience Neural Network, responsible for motivation- combine efforts to develop what we call creative thinking (Kaufman and Gregoire, 2015).
However, it is important to differentiate the existence of 3 types of creativity: combinational, exploratory or transformative. The first type is usually the only one recognized by the studies on creativity and involves the generation of unknown combinations with known ideas. In the exploratory genre the rules and conventions are used to generate novel structures (ideas or artifacts) whose possibilities may or may not have been done before. The last one, the transformer, is the more striking since the new idea is not only strange but seems impossible. In this last revolutionary “Flow” occurs when someone is completely involved in a activity that is a challenge and only he/she cares about the undertaked task in order to reach the desired objective (Bilder, 2015). In this last revolutionary category any dimension or conceptual space that defined the style is altered and new structures that could not be generated before emerge. Thus a new theory is necessary for the neuroscientific study of creativity that is able to show how these 3 forms of creativity function independently and can can be integrated (Boden, 2013).
There is no doubt that this research on how the creativity works in the brain has a potential value in health, education, work environment and the economy of our territories and societies. Let´s work forward to help expand the knowledge in this passionate field!
- Bilder, R. (2015) “How Creativity Works in the Brain. Insights from a Santa Fe Institute Working Group”. NEA Office of Research & Analysis.
- Boden, M.A. (2013) “Creativity as a Neurocientific Mistery” in “Neuroscience of Creativity”. Editors: Vartanian O., Bristol A.S., Kaufman J.C. / MIT Press.
- Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990) “Flow : The Psychology of Optimal Experience”. Harper Perennial, London.
- Kaufman, S.B. y Gregoire, C. (2015) “Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind”. Tarcher/Perigee.
- Kleibeuker, S.W. et al (2013) “Prefrontal cortex involvement in creative problem solving in middle adolescence and adulthood”. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Volume 5, July 2013, Pages 197–206.
- Lautrey, J. y Lubart T. (1998) ”Diccionario de Ciencias Cognitivas”. Amorrortu editores.
*(Picture: pexels.com, Andres Lozano & brainworldmagazine.com).