According to research published by Duke University during February of the year, creative people have better-connected brains. In fact, this report states, “Highly creative people have significantly more white matter connections (shown in green) between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.” This development may be of great interest to writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, and, of course, musicians.
The report puts misconceptions to bed. While many seminars, websites, and self-help books have illustrated that you must tap into the right side of your brain to stimulate creativity, the report suggests that it’s how well the two brain hemispheres communicate, which sets high-performing creative individuals apart.
The “right brain” myth is a popular one and will be difficult to defeat. Nonetheless, statisticians David Dunson of Duke University and Daniele Durante of the University of Padova were a part of the team that embraced this task. The two academics approached 68 healthy college-age volunteers and analyzed the white matter within the separate brain regions of the volunteers.
Beneath outer gray matter lies the brain’s white matter, which is composed of bundles of wires, or axons. Those axons connect billions of neurons, carrying electrical signals between each.
Led by neuroscientist Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico, Dunson, Durante, and others collected data using diffusion tensor imaging, which is an MRI technique that allowed researchers to scrutinize the skull of the living participants, tracking the pathways of axons by following of water along the axons. Computers were used to survey each 1-gigabyte scan, as well as convert them to three-dimensional maps or “wiring diagrams.
Creativity was assessed through a series of tests, while participants were measured for their “divergent thinking” or creative problem-solving skills. College students were tested in some ways: challenged to draw as many geometric designs as possible in five minutes; and list new uses for everyday objects, such as bricks or rulers. Additionally, they completed questionnaires about achievements in numerous areas, including music, creative writing, dance, science, and cooking.
Creativity scores were composed using the responses of volunteers, and trained computers were used to review data and identify differences in brain structure. While gender didn’t seem to be a factor when looking at the statistical difference in connectivity within hemispheres, researchers found something interesting when comparing those who scored in the top 15 percent and bottom 15 percent on the creativity tests. They learned that high-scoring individuals possessed significantly more axons connections between the left and right hemispheres. The distinction was especially pronounced in the brain’s frontal lobe.
They learned high-scoring individuals possessed significantly more axons connections between the left and right hemispheres. The distinction was especially pronounced in the brain’s frontal lobe.
Examining the patterns of interconnections, network structure, and brain activity will not only help to identify who’s creative, but it can offer insight into what one might be good at. Advanced brain imaging procedures help the team to identify “the rich, dense web of links between them.” Next, the team will develop statistical methods to determine brain connectivity based on I.Q., and its relationship to creativity.