Sparking Creativity

At Abrakadoodle, each and every visual arts lesson seeks to spark creativity in our students. We believe in process art in which children actively explore art and make decisions that reflect their feelings and imagination. As such, we are keenly interested in current research and messaging from such thought leaders as Dan Pink and others around the issue of creativity, art and education.

Scientific American’s May 2011 issue presented an article entitled, “Creativity: Inner Sparks,” which caught my eye and presented an interesting view of current research underway. Surgeon and sax player Charles Limb, MD was interviewed about an ongoing research project that is seeking to measure brain activity in the moment of creative improvisation. While Limb’s study involves music, all of the arts inspire creativity. Of the research, Limb says, “Creativity is a whole-brain activity that is deeply related to our sense of self. It behooves us to understand it.”

When he says that creativity is a “whole” brain activity, he means that all aspects of the brain are engaged during the creative process. Why is this important? Limb comments, “I don’t know that there’s an attribute that is more responsible for how we’ve evolved as a species than creativity.” What exactly happens in the brain during these creative moments? Research reveals that the lateral prefrontal region shuts down. This is the area of the brain that is involved with conscious self-monitoring, self-inhibition and evaluation of rightness and wrongness, according to the article. Just as one area is turned off, another area is turned on. The medial prefrontal cortex shows activity during imaginative activities, and this area of the brain is responsible for self-expression and autobiographical narrative and sense of self.

According to Limb, “We need to learn how creativity affects the brain and how to implement creativity in education systems, how to encourage children to be creative.”

If you have about 15 minutes, check out Dr. Limb on TED TV: