Where does creativity come from in the brain of jazz guitarists during improvisation?

A newly fresh study, published in the NeuroImage Journal, has analyzed the brains of jazz guitarists during music improvisation to study where creativity comes from the brain.

Researchers found that jazz musicians with more experience showed more activity in the left hemisphere when being creative at playing rather than less experienced musicians who showed more activity in the right hemisphere. In other words, inexperienced rely on the right hemisphere and experienced musicians in the left hemisphere.

Here’s the paper:

2020 Feb 28;213:116632. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116632.

Dual-process contributions to creativity in jazz improvisations: An SPM-EEG study.

Rosen DSOh YErickson BZhang FZKim YEKounios J.

In recent years, various studies have debunked the myth that “right-brain thinkers” are innovative and creative while “left-brain thinkers” are analytical and logical (see “the left/right brain myth” post), and the myth that creative thinking only occurs in the right cerebral hemisphere. Neuroscientists are really skeptical of this left/right brain idea and have argued over the years that there is not enough evidence to support this idea. Also, they claim that an ability as complex as creativity must rely on both hemispheres and engage different areas of the brain due to different connections.

Nonetheless, this study sheds light on how the left and right hemispheres can both play a role in the creative process. The findings suggest that brain activity changes with experience, and it may contribute to the development of new methods for training people to be creative in the music field. For instance, when a musician is experienced and is an expert, his or her performing is produced primarily by relatively unconscious, whereas less experienced musicians tend to be under deliberate, conscious control. Thus, they are better able to make adjustments according to instructions given by a teacher or coach. Therefore, the main idea here is that recordings of brain activity could reveal the point at which a performer is ready to release some conscious control and rely on unconscious, well-learned music routines. Isn’t that incredible?


Feature image from Pexels – C0 license.

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