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To boost creativity, combine systematic daily effort with diverse emotional states

jazz_creativityMap­ping Cre­ativ­i­ty in the Brain (The Atlantic):

The writer Edith Whar­ton, a self-pro­fessed “slow work­er,” dis­missed the idea of easy cre­ative tri­umph. “Many peo­ple assume that the artist receives, at the out­set of his career, the mys­te­ri­ous sealed orders known as ‘Inspi­ra­tion,’ and has only to let that sov­er­eign impulse car­ry him where it will,” she wrote in her 1925 book The Writ­ing of Fic­tion. The artis­tic impulse, she con­tin­ued, was instead achieved through “sys­tem­at­ic dai­ly effort.”

But while she cham­pi­oned dili­gence, Whar­ton was also dri­ven by some­thing she found more dif­fi­cult to describe…Earlier this year, Limb co-authored a new study led by Malin­da McPher­son, a doc­tor­al can­di­date at the Har­vard-MIT Pro­gram in Speech and Hear­ing Bio­science and Tech­nol­o­gy, to address that miss­ing ele­ment. The study also asked jazz pianists to impro­vise in an fMRI scan­ner; this time, though, the musi­cians were instruct­ed to first review pho­tographs of a woman wear­ing a pos­i­tive, neg­a­tive, or neu­tral expres­sion, and then to try to match the photo’s mood with their impro­vised melodies.

Broad­ly, McPherson’s find­ings sup­port Dietrich’s argu­ment that cre­ativ­i­ty doesn’t stem from one eas­i­ly defin­able process or brain pat­tern. The results also indi­cate that “emo­tion has a huge effect on the way our brains can be cre­ative,” McPher­son says. Pos­i­tive emo­tion, for instance, seems to be relat­ed to a deep­er state of cre­ative flow. Her find­ings also seem to indi­cate that unhap­py artis­tic expres­sion requires more con­scious restraint than hap­py music—but may also be, on some lev­el, more reward­ing.”

Study: Emo­tion­al Intent Mod­u­lates The Neur­al Sub­strates Of Cre­ativ­i­ty: An fMRI Study of Emo­tion­al­ly Tar­get­ed Impro­vi­sa­tion in Jazz Musi­cians (Nature)

  • Abstract: Emo­tion is a pri­ma­ry moti­va­tor for cre­ative behav­iors, yet the inter­ac­tion between the neur­al sys­tems involved in cre­ativ­i­ty and those involved in emo­tion has not been stud­ied. In the cur­rent study, we addressed this gap by using fMRI to exam­ine piano impro­vi­sa­tion in response to emo­tion­al cues. We showed twelve pro­fes­sion­al jazz pianists pho­tographs of an actress rep­re­sent­ing a pos­i­tive, neg­a­tive or ambigu­ous emo­tion. Using a non-fer­ro­mag­net­ic thir­ty-five key key­board, the pianists impro­vised music that they felt rep­re­sent­ed the emo­tion expressed in the pho­tographs. Here we show that activ­i­ty in pre­frontal and oth­er brain net­works involved in cre­ativ­i­ty is high­ly mod­u­lat­ed by emo­tion­al con­text. Fur­ther­more, emo­tion­al intent direct­ly mod­u­lat­ed func­tion­al con­nec­tiv­i­ty of lim­bic and par­al­im­bic areas such as the amyg­dala and insu­la. These find­ings sug­gest that emo­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty are tight­ly linked, and that the neur­al mech­a­nisms under­ly­ing cre­ativ­i­ty may depend on emo­tion­al state.

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