Thursday, August 27, 2015

Creativity and the Brain

by Marcus Conyers

Part Six in a Six-Part Series

Different “brain states,” or ways of thinking, can be applied to enhance creative and innovative thinking. Some of these states may not come easily to everyone, but they can be cultivated over time. We can train our brains to become more creatively productive and to proactively apply innovative ways of thinking to creative challenges (Carson, 2012).

Neuroscientists have identified two key brain networks, referred to as the executive attention and default mode networks, involved in creative thinking. The executive attention network, connecting outer regions of the prefrontal cortex to areas in the posterior region of the parietal lobe, is active when cognitive control is required in the problem-solving, evaluation, and implementation phases of innovation.

In contrast, the default mode network, which some researchers refer to as the “imagination network,” is involved in “constructing dynamic mental simulations based on personal past experiences such as used during remembering, thinking about the future, and generally when imagining alternative perspectives and scenarios to the present” (Kaufman, 2013).

This network involves areas in the prefrontal cortex, temporal lobe, and parietal cortex, drawing on information stored in long-term memory and on regions associated with personal memories. Studies suggest that this network is highly active during the brainstorming and free association phases of creative thinking.

As research continues on which areas of the brain are most involved in creative cognition, we may learn more about how and when to tap into these networks to come up with innovative ideas and then to evaluate and implement them.



Carson, S. (2012). Your creative brain: Seven steps to maximize imagination, productivity, and innovation in your life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 
Clifton, J. (2011). The coming jobs war. Omaha, NE: Gallup Press.

Kaufman, S.B. (2013, August 19). The real neuroscience of creativity [Beautiful Minds blog]. Scientific American. Retrieved from this link.

Note: This post draws from research that Marcus did for an article, “Innovating Minds—What Students Need for the Future,” for Information Age Education (IAE).

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