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Germany: Art students gain deeper understanding of brain mechanics of creativity
by Global Good News staff writer
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22 November 2011
During a recent seminar presentation on creativity and the brain to art students at Münster University in Germany, Dr Fred Travis described research that clarifies commonly-held understandings about the role of the brain's right hemisphere in the creative process.
Dr Travis, a renowned brain researcher who is director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, had been invited to speak at universities in nine cities across Germany.
At Münster University, he took part in a lecture series hosted by an emeritus professor of art who is also interested in the brain.
Discussing the brain, coherent brain functioning, and creativity, Dr Travis mentioned that traditional wisdom holds that creativity is governed by the right brain lobe. Recent studies, however, suggest that it is in fact the frontal lobes of the brain which are most active during bursts of creativity.
These findings are the result of neural imaging of people creating stories. Scientists compared the top quartile of very creative stories to the bottom quartile of uncreative stories. They found blood flow was higher during creative story generation in the left and right frontal lobes, and actually was not more active on the right side than the left.
Dr Travis explained, 'What this is showing is that your frontal lobes are your source of abstraction, symbolic thinking, and to be creative you have to think outside of the box.'
He then asked the students, 'But where is the box you are supposed to think outside of?
'Thinking in the box means you're thinking within the concrete restraint of the problem space; you're not able to see beyond the problem space.'
Dr Travis believes thinking outside the box means thinking with your frontal lobes. This is because the front of the brain takes the sensory images and impressions from the back of the brain and puts those into symbolic space, into past or future or other abstractions.
'So it makes sense that that's the part of the brain that would be needed to think creatively—to step out of the situation you're in, to think of the bigger picture, to think of a solution which is outside of the box.'
Dr Travis concluded by mentioning a study which shows increased blood flow to the frontal lobes of the brain during the practice of the Transcendental Meditation Technique, thus suggesting to the students that meditation can increase their creative potential.
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