AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 3, 2017

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Emotional Expression Affects the Brain’s Creativity Network

The workings of neural circuits associated with creativity are significantly altered when artists are actively attempting to express emotions, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports. The new research, gathered by scanning the brains of jazz pianists, suggests that creativity cannot be fully explained in terms of the activation or deactivation of a fixed network of brain regions. Rather, the researchers said, when creative acts engage brain areas involved in emotional expression, activity in these regions strongly influences which parts of the brain’s creativity network are activated, and to what extent. “The bottom line is that emotion matters,” said the study’s senior author. “It can’t just be a binary situation in which your brain is one way when you’re being creative and another way when you’re not. Instead, there are greater and lesser degrees of creative states, and different versions. And emotion plays a crucially important role in these differences.” During the study, researchers found that deactivation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was significantly greater when the jazz musicians, who played a small keyboard while in the fMRI scanner, improvised melodies intended to convey the emotion expressed in a “positive” image (a photograph of a woman smiling) than when they aimed to capture the emotions in a “negative” image (a photograph of the same woman in a mildly distressed state). To read more about this study, click here.

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