How Creativity Works in the Brain

How Creativity Works in the Brain

National Endowment for the Arts has released a new report, "How Creativity Works in the Brain," that examines links between arts, learning and neuroscience.

"The time is ripe for bringing together artists, scientists, and educators to collaboratively confront the question of how creativity functions in the brain," said Bill O'Brien, NEA senior advisor to the chairman for innovation. "Imagine the potential for our nation's health, education, culture, and productivity if we were able to truly understand the anatomy of our 'aha' moments, and how they can be nurtured, optimized, and deployed."

In the report, participants started from scratch, looking at how to define the concept of creativity, and how to study it in a way that integrates multiple perspectives from cognitive psychology, education, neuroscience, and the arts.

Conclusions of the Report

- Creativity research requires more partnerships among neurobiologists, artists, psychologists, and educators.

- More than 30 years of cognitive-behavioral research has informed our knowledge about creativity, but there is little neuroscience to back it up. The field needs neuroscientific validation of existing tools to assess creativity in individuals. If effective, these tests can be adopted more widely by our nation's educators, employers, and other decision-makers.

- Brain research is a young field, which makes it the perfect time to invest in creativity research, even while neuroscience models and technologies continue to develop.

The report proposes goals for future creativity research. The first goal is to use mixed-methods research (such as combining first-person creative experiences with objective neuroscientific measurements) to discover and describe the neurobiological foundations for the creative process. The second research objective is to take existing behavioral assessments on creativity and validate them with neurobiological testing, which will help encourage their widespread use by educators and employers.

Image: Kelli Rogowski