Categories: Brain

Creativity is a muscle 

By  Lysette Offley

Creativity is a muscle. Photo of Louis ArmstrongIf you were wondering…(and I know some of you worry about this sort of thing!) … how great musicians improvise –you know, make it up as they go along – new research has shed some light on where in the brain, the processing happens.

It’s probably not where you think, because it’s not some magical, spontaneous gift from above after all.


It turns out that it happens in the same part of the brain, the cerebellum, where much of our other, ordinary, conscious processing happens – such as engaging in a conversation.

How mundane!

However, cramming a bunch of talented, improvising musicians, one at a time, in an fRMI machine, revealed that a part of the brain that allows us to plan and (some of us – ha ha!!) to self-regulate and censor ourselves, becomes less active. Meanwhile, as expected, parts connected to the senses – seeing, hearing, feeling, become more animated.

Perhaps, most interesting of all, there’s increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, associated with autobiographical story-telling. (Ooh, don’t we just love talking about ourselves!!)

So what you get is, a decrease in inhibition, but a heightening of senses and self-expression.

No surprise there then!

And perhaps there’s no surprise that 6 year olds who’d had musical improvisation classes at school demonstrated a significant increase in creativity and originality in their musical activities, while pupils who attended conventional, teacher-led classes didn’t.

Meanwhile, improvisation exercises in the workplace, designed to break down inhibition, but heighten attention and self-expression, help employees develop creative, constructive business thinking.

So if you’ve ever got out of something a little uncomfortable by declaring that you’re not creative, think again!


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Lysette Offley

Genius Maker & Founder of Genius Material and The Genius Principles. Working with professionals who need exceptional academic & professional development.

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