Why and how does creativity affect the brain?
It feels different when we are in a “creative flow” and this is due to the structure of the brain. The brain is divided both vertically and horizontally. There are three distinct, but interconnected, hierarchies of the human brain that evolved overtime. They are
1) the brainstem (our “lizard brain”),
2) the limbic system (our “mammalian brain”) and
3) the neocortex (what makes us human).
The brainstem is like our autopilot. It controls the things we don’t have to “think” about such as balance and heart rate. The limbic system is the source of our emotions and instincts, and the neocortex is only in the brain of higher mammals. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), at the front of the neocortex, is responsible for cognition and reasoning.
Our brain is also organized horizontally and is divided into two hemispheres,
connected by the corpus callosum. The left hemisphere specializes in language, logic and facts. It is linear and conscious. The right hemisphere is the seat of emotion and is non-linear. It is beneath consciousness. One of the extraordinary aspects of creative expression is that it bypasses rational thought and logical assumptions.
targets the right hemisphere and limbic system of the brain, which are visual, sensory and emotional in nature. (The right prefrontal cortex is deeply connected to the limbic areas of the brain and is central to affect regulation.)This allows art and imagery to circumvent psychological resistance, which is typically analytic in nature. The Arts (in all their forms) also allow for the externalization of these very inner experiences and gives them shape and form outside the body and mind. Creativity gives expression to that which cannot, because of the structure of the brain, be spoken. This, in turn, provides opportunity to re-imagine concepts of self and identity. Scientists have also discovered that the very act of creating – integrating the brain both vertically and horizontally – reduces anxiety, depression and pain, decreases blood pressure, strengthens immune functioning and improves attention and concentration.
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Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT
Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!