Science of Creativity Digest: Exercise Works

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Synopsis

We have known for a while that deliberate physical movement - even if not especially a yoga practice, for instance - can stimulate different kinds of creative thinking. Below are two articles that report on current studies in this domain. Plus, take weekly creative challenges through RadioWest and the Utah Arts Festival.

We have known for a while that deliberate physical movement - even if not especially a yoga practice, for instance - can stimulate different kinds of creative thinking.

Below are two articles that report on current studies in this domain. Plus, take weekly creative challenges through RadioWest and the Utah Arts Festival.

How Exercise Can Fuel Mental 'Time Travel' And Boost Creativity 

from Huffington Post
When professor of neuroscience Wendy Suzuki began exercising regularly in her late thirties, she noticed, “improvements in [her] strength, stamina and overall cardiovascular fitness but also striking improvements in [her] mood, memory, attention.” In her research, she found that exercise stimulates the hippocampus—the part of our brain necessary for long-term memory—to create new brain cells. This “hippocampal neurogenesis” enhances our ability to recall memories and our ability to imagine future scenarios, which is a key element of creativity.

Suzuki noticed this in her own life. As she exercised more, she started to have new ideas for courses to teach, began creative collaborations, and revisited old creative hobbies she had shelved, like “writing and singing.” If you need motivation to hit the gym, perhaps its potential to boost creativity may be just the reason you’re looking for.

Studies cited:

Bridging animal and human models of exercise-induced brain plasicity. Voss, M.W. et al. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Volume 17, Issue 10, 525-544.

Patients with hippocampal amnesia cannot imagine new experiences. Hassibis, D. et al. Biological Sciences - Psychology. Volume 104, Issue 5, 1726-1731.

Bilateral hippocampal lesion and a selective impairment of the ability for mental time travel. Andelman, F. et al. Neurocase: The Neural Basis of Cognition. Volume 16, Issue 5, 426-435.

Remembering the past to imagine the future: the prospective brain. Schacter, D.L. et al. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. Volume 8, 657-661.

Preplay of future place cell sequences by hippocampal cellular assemblies. Dragoi, G. and Tonegawa, S. Nature. Volume 469, 397-401.

 

Human Creativity Caused by a Surprising Brain Region

from Science World Report
Staff writer at Science World Report Catherine Griffin reports that the results of a recent experiment searching for brain structures associated with creativity showed that “high creativity scores were associated with low activity in the executive-function center [of the left prefrontal cortex] and with a higher activation in the cerebellum,” the part of the brain usually associated with movement and coordination. So what does this mean for us creators?

Allan Reiss, one of the researchers, states, “sometimes a deliberate attempt to be creative may not be the best way to optimize your creativity,” and that perhaps the less you think about being creative, the more creative you will actually be.

I will elaborate on another correlation: This finding corroborates what we have known for decades - that trying "not" to be creative can be deliberate and timely. It's essential in most cases to define your creative focus with intention to explore or express, for instance, or to define a goal to solve a problem creatively. What's important in this study is two-fold: One, when you are setting out to advance a project or solve a problem, actually "do" something that engages your body. Writing, drafting, doodling, free writing, painting, mind mapping are all ways to stimulate some parts of the body.

But at a certain point, whether working alone or together on a project or problem, you will hit an impasse. There's no need to make this part of the cycle dramatic or personal. There is little use in creating wheel-spinning stories about why you are "stuck" or have a "block." Instead, recognize the moment for what it is - a classic impasse - and step away.

To activate the "creative cerebellum," take a walk, play tennis, run around the block, putz in the garden, hang the laundry, play a musical instrument you know how to play easily (not one you are learning to play). Doing so deliberately diverts your attention, quiets the left prefrontal cortex, and activates the movement-oriented cerebellum.

Study cited:

Pictionary-based fMRI paradigm to study the neural correlates of spontaneous improvisation and figural creativity. Sagger, M. et al. Scientific Reports. Volume 5, Article 10894.

 

The Science of Creativity 

from RadioWest
Based on psychologist James Kaufman’s belief that everyone can cultivate creativity in their lives, host and executive producer of RadioWest Doug Fabrizio reports that RadioWest and Utah Arts Festival are coming together to “get creativity flowing” in their audiences. Every Friday from now until June 25th, they will post creative “challenges” on their podcast and online. They encourage participants to share their creations through social media with the tag #creativeutah.

Tags: creativity, exercise and creativity, jeffrey davis, psychology of creativity, science of creativity

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