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In jazz improv, large portion of brain's prefrontal region 'takes 5' to let creativity flow
Date:2/26/2008

One notable finding was that the brain scans were nearly identical for the low-level and high-level forms of improvisation, thus supporting the researchers hypothesis that the change in neural activity was due to creativity and not the complexity of the task. If the latter were the case, there would have been a more noticeable difference between the Scale and Jazz paradigms, since the Jazz paradigm was significantly more complex.

Moreover, the researchers found that much of the change between improvisation and memorization occurred in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the frontal lobe of the brain that helps us think and problem-solve and that provides a sense of self. Interestingly, the large portion responsible for monitoring ones performance (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) shuts down completely during improvisation, while the much smaller, centrally located region at the foremost part of the brain (medial prefrontal cortex) increases in activity. The medial prefrontal cortex is involved in self-initiated thoughts and behaviors, and is very active when a person describes an event that has happened to him or makes up a story. The researchers explain that, just as over-thinking a jump shot can cause a basketball player to fall out of the zone and perform poorly, the suppression of inhibitory, self-monitoring brain mechanisms helps to promote the free flow of novel ideas and impulses. While this brain pattern is unusual, it resembles the pattern seen in people when they are dreaming.

Another unusual finding was that there was increased neural activity in each of the sensory areas during improvisation, including those responsible for touch, hearing and vision, despite the fact that there were no significant differences in what individuals were hearing, touching and seeing during both memorized and improvised conditions. Its almost as if the brain ramps up its sensorimotor processing in order to be in a creative state, said Limb. Th
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Contact: Jennifer Wenger
jwenger@mail.nih.gov
301-496-7243
NIH/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
Source:Eurekalert

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