Scientists have finally understood what emotions have to do with creativity. Their most recent study on the neural responses of jazz pianists indicates that our brain stresses different neuronal patterns depending on the emotions that people experience in a particular moment.
Being creative is a highly requested mental ability among people, who work in artistic fields, but is creativity really a privileged talent? A new study tried to find the answer to this question by looking at the brain activity of jazz pianists as they interpret their musical pieces.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have reached the conclusion that emotions are the only ones that can dictate whether a person is creative or not. Their conclusion is based on MRI scans showing that neural circuits change as artists try to convey various feelings.
To put in Professor Charles Limb’s words, our brain has a completely different constitution when we express emotions as opposed to the moments when no feelings are involved. Limb further explained that this hypothesis was verified multiple times through the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that researchers have performed on jazz pianists as they interpreted their plays.
Participants were asked to improvise songs according to the images they were shown to. Some images depicted happy women, whereas others showcased people in distressed situations. Images have revealed that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) region, which is responsible for our monitoring and planning abilities, is highly stressed during creative episodes.
The DLPFC region acts differently depending on the emotions that artists want to convey. The deactivation of the said region is stronger when participants create a happy tune for the positive image. The sad melodies associated with the negative image led to an increase of the reward area in participants’ brain. This explains, in scientists’ opinion why it is more pleasurable to create happy music than sad one.
Various measures were taken to prevent biased results. Scientists alternated the pianists’ creative moments with passive moments during which they only watched positive and negative images. This was necessary because scientists wanted to determine how the brain changes during creative moments. They have thus come to the conclusion that the DLPFC deactivation is responsible for artists’ so-called flow state.
For a better understanding of creative processes and creative minds, researchers should further carry out studies on non-artistic individuals to determine whether the brain structure of a creative person truly differs from that of an artist.
The current study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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