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A conversation with Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg on Creativity, Neuroscience, and Technological Innovation

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Dear Elkhonon, a plea­sure to have you with us. Let’s get out the gate by dis­cussing how are new ideas born — for exam­ple, how exact­ly did you first think about writ­ing your new book, Cre­ativ­i­ty: The Human Brain in the Age of Inno­va­tion?

Orig­i­nal­ly, I set out to write a book about how the brain deals with nov­el­ty — a long-stand­ing focus of my own research. But the more I thought about it, the more the sub­ject of cre­ativ­i­ty was com­ing up, so I decid­ed to tack­le nov­el­ty and cre­ativ­i­ty at the same time.

Do we need yet anoth­er book on Cre­ativ­i­ty?

We absolute­ly do. Cre­ativ­i­ty is not just an indi­vid­ual feat; it is embed­ded into a cul­ture which either fos­ter, sti­fles, or shapes it in a vari­ety of ways. And it is nev­er a strict­ly soli­tary process, since even the most cre­ative mind draws on the pre­vi­ous­ly accu­mu­lat­ed knowl­edge. So, in order to tru­ly under­stand cre­ativ­i­ty, we must inte­grate neu­ro­sci­en­tif­ic and cul­tur­al per­spec­tives into a coher­ent nar­ra­tive. To my knowl­edge, this has not been done before, and this is what my book aims to accom­plish.

I am par­tic­u­lar­ly fas­ci­nat­ed by the dynam­ic rela­tion­ship between over- and under­ac­ti­va­tion of pre­frontal cor­tex areas in the cre­ative process and dis­cuss it exten­sive­ly in the book. This is one of the most intrigu­ing and pos­si­bly most con­se­quen­tial aspects of the brain machin­ery of cre­ativ­i­ty.

What have we learned about the brain mech­a­nisms of cre­ativ­i­ty over the last five to ten years?

We have learned a lot: that cre­ativ­i­ty is not a mono­lith­ic trait; that is con­sists of many mov­ing parts and may take many paths even with­in the same are­na of human endeav­or; that it is not linked to any sin­gle brain struc­ture or to a sin­gle gene or even a small group of genes.

How do you define Cre­ativ­i­ty, and what can Neu­ro­science con­tribute to its under­stand­ing?

Cre­ativ­i­ty is often defined as the abil­i­ty to come up with con­tent which is both nov­el and salient. Read the rest of this entry »

Cognitive and Emotional Development Through Play

We some­times neglect to men­tion a very basic yet pow­er­ful method of cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al devel­op­ment, for chil­dren and adults alike: Play.

Dr. David Elkind, author of The Pow­er of Play: Learn­ing That Comes Nat­u­ral­ly, dis­cuss­es the need to build a more “play­ful cul­ture” in this great arti­cle The Power of Play And Learningbrought to you thanks to our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greater Good Mag­a­zine.

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Can We Play?

– By Dr. David Elkind

Play is rapid­ly dis­ap­pear­ing from our homes, our schools, and our neigh­bor­hoods. Over the last two decades alone, chil­dren have lost eight hours of free, unstruc­tured, and spon­ta­neous play a week. More than 30,000 schools in the Unit­ed States have elim­i­nat­ed recess to make more time for aca­d­e­mics. From 1997 to 2003, chil­dren’s time spent out­doors fell 50 per­cent, accord­ing to a study by San­dra Hof­ferth at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land. Hof­ferth has also found that the amount of time chil­dren spend in orga­nized sports has dou­bled, and the num­ber of min­utes chil­dren devote each week to pas­sive leisure, not includ­ing watch­ing tele­vi­sion, has increased from 30 min­utes to more than three hours. It is no sur­prise, then, that child­hood obe­si­ty is now con­sid­ered an epi­dem­ic.

But the prob­lem goes well beyond obe­si­ty. Decades of research has shown that play is cru­cial to phys­i­cal, intel­lec­tu­al, and social-emo­tion­al devel­op­ment at all ages. This is espe­cial­ly true of the purest form of play: the unstruc­tured, self-moti­vat­ed, imag­i­na­tive, inde­pen­dent kind, where chil­dren ini­ti­ate their own games and even invent their own rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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