Arts stimulate creativity

Question to the brain


Anjan Chatterjee, chief of neurology at the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, USA
: This question is difficult to answer. Because how can you research that? You could test young people's creative abilities and see who becomes an artist. But they could just as easily become scientists or engineers - because they also need creativity. Only the expression of their creativity differs. It is hardly possible to define how this creativity differs itself. We are currently in the process of researching the extent to which people are creative regardless of their profession. Where are the corresponding processes in the brain? First we need to clarify the phase that we want to investigate. In the early stages of a creative process, people begin to look for a solution to a task or a question. By the way, this is not so different in art than in science. Think, for example, of artists like Picasso, who helped found cubism. He was looking for a solution to a tricky problem: to represent three dimensions in two dimensions.

This initial phase could be a vehicle through which creativity becomes visible. There are first insights into the mechanisms that take place in the brain. People often state that they need a lower level of arousal when immersed in a creative process. We observe that people often find the solution to a tricky problem when, for example, they are falling asleep or waking up, when the brain is relatively calm and they are not consciously thinking. Then they suddenly have this “aha” moment, which can actually be observed in the EEG: parallel to this moment, a specific activity is evident in the right temporal cortex. But one must not assume that creativity is at home there. It takes place in many different regions that are connected in networks. We were only able to locate this moment there, which is considered the key to creativity.

We differentiate between two forms of creativity: we need convergent creativity to find common ground for many different elements, divergent creativity describes the opposite process: when you have an object - for example a pen - and try to do as many different things as possible with it . While the right temporal cortex seems to be important for the aha moment as part of the convergent creativity, we have observed that an inhibition of the left frontal cortex often supports the divergent creativity. We know this from our clinical experience: Patients with frontotemporal dementia, a disease related to Alzheimer's, often discover their creative streak at a certain stage and, for example, start painting. The disease attacks parts of your frontal cortex.

So maybe the frontal cortex is blocking other regions in the brain that would allow more artistic creativity. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can suppress external neural activity. Test subjects whose left frontal cortex was inhibited with it painted more creative pictures in the experiment than without the stimulation. Do artists have a more creative brain? I rather suspect that particularly creative people can deliberately slow down this part of the brain.

As you can see, we don't know too much about creativity. Experimentally researching these processes in the brain is difficult, because you have to artificially create creative moments.

recorded by Eva Wolfangel