Neuroscientists have long believed that human creativity is too complex to be confined to one region of the brain. But it was unclear how the brain worked during a creative exercise. Now a team of American scientists has exhibited the working of the brain activity of jazz musicians during improvisations. Published in the journal NeuroImage, the research revealed that creativity can involve either side of the brain, depending on the musician’s expertise.
The team picked 32 jazz guitarists (1 female) volunteers for the study. The ages of the participants ranged from 18 to 55 years and their experience ranged from 4 to 33 years. To study their brain activity, the research team used a high-density electroencephalogram as they played. The musicians were given jazz lead sheets and experimental instructions. Their performance was recorded.
The team studied the EEG of the musicians as they played. The 192 recorded performances were then played for four jazz experts so that they could rate these for performance and creativity. This feedback was taken into account when the team compared the highly-rated performance with performances that were judged less creative.
The research team found that highly rated performances showed greater activity in the posterior left hemisphere of the brain. In less creative performances, the researchers found greater activity in the frontal areas of the right-hemisphere. When they co-related this data with each musician’s experience, another pattern emerged. Almost all the differences in brain-activity between highly creative and less-creative performances were found in the frontal regions of the right hemisphere.