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Your Brain and Creativity

February 2, 2010 2 comments

In the 1950’s and 1960’s Professor Roger Sperry was investigating brainwave function, he wanted to explore different thinking activities and their effect on the brain. Sperry got volunteers to perform different mental tasks such as mental arithmetic, reading poetry, reciting memorised lines, drawing, looking at different colours, analysing logical problems and daydeaming.

Sperry Nobel Prize (1981) winning research found that the brain divides its activities into ‘left brain’ (left cortex) activities and ‘right brain’ (right cortex) activities.

Left brain functions

  • Words
  • Logic
  • Numbers
  • Sequence
  • Linearity
  • Analysis
  • Lists

Right brain activities

  • Rhythm
  • Spatial awareness
  • Dimension
  • Imagination
  • Daydreaming
  • Colour
  • Holistic awareness

When the right cortex becomes active, the left cortex tends to gon into a relatively restful or meditative state. Similarly when the left cortex becomes active right cortex becomes more calm and relaxed.

You may have heard that the left brain activities were generally labelled as ‘intellectual‘, ‘academic’, or ‘business‘ activities and the right brain activities to be more ‘artistic‘, ‘creative‘ and ‘emotional’ activities. If this labelling were to be true then you would expect academics and intellectuals such as Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein to be ‘left brained’ while artists and musicians such as Beethoven and Michelangelo to be using their ‘right brain.’ RIGHT…??

Well, let us have a look at Einstein. Einstein was nominated the greatest genius of the 20th century. however he was a poor student who preferred daydreaming to studying and was expelled from school. As a teenager he became inspired by the imaginative side of mathmatics and physics and was very interested in the works of michelangelo. These interests fuelled his imagination furthur leading him to develop ‘creative mind games‘. In one of these mind games Einstein imagined that he was standing on the surface of the sum where he sat on a sunbeam and travelled to the ends of the universe. when he came to the end of his journey he found that he was back where he started. Surely this is impossible you can’t travel in a straight line forever and end up where u started!!!! The truth then came to him: his imagination had told him more than logic ever could.  From this imagination game Einstein made one of the most profound insights in history: our universe is a curved and finite universe. He did not come to this conclusion by only ‘left brain’ thinking but combining his knowledge of number, word, order, logic, and analysis with imagination, spatial awareness and ability to see the whole picture. This is a perfect example of blending the ‘right’ and ‘left’  brain functions to form ‘whole brain’ creativity.

What a bout the ‘right brained’ creative people? Beethoven is known as one of the most famous musicians. As a musician you would expect him to be ‘ right brained’ but lets consider the nature of music: it is written on lines, in sequence, follows a logic and is based on numbers. These are all ‘left brain’ functions. Music has always been described as the purest form of mathematics. It is also interesting to note that many musicians had mathematics as their major hobby and vice versa. Like Einstein he was neither right or left brained but creatively ‘whole brained’.

Creativity Workout

  1. MAKE A LIST of all the right brain skills that you use, then make a list of all the left brain skills you use. Pay attention to any left or right skills you are neglecting and strengthen them straight away.
  2. TAKE BREAKS. Whole brain thinking requires that you take regular breaks. This is when you come up with most of your ideas, think about it, in the shower, on a walk, before going to sleep, listening to music. Your brain needs to relax.
  3. GO FOR A LONG WALK. This will help increase the blood flow to your brain and provide exciting stimulus for the senses
  4. BE CREATIVE IN YOUR ECERYDAY LIFE. Make up two lists, one for activities when you are most creative and one for when you a least creative. this will help you identify where you can maximise creativity and eliminate non creative activities.
  5. MASTERMIND GROUP. When faced with a problem ask your mastermind group, real or imaginary, to help you come up with the answer.
  6. USE BOTH SIDES OF YOUR BODY. By using both sides of your body you will use both sides of your brain. Use your non dominant hand for daily activities, brushing your teeth, writing, answering the phone.
  7. PLAY EINSTEIN LIKE IMAGINATION GAMES. Ask yourself an interesting question and let you imagination run riot with all the possible solutions no matter how bizzare or crazy they are. See what you can come up with.

To read more about creativity and your brain I would strongly reccommed reading Tony Buzans “The Power of Creative Intelligence”.

Ryan Renfrew

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