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Creativity Module 17


Neuroscience of Creativity

MRI Scan Image

Background Information:

The idea that creativity only comes from the right side or the left side of the brain is wrong, according to the neuroscience of creativity. Creativity is a complex process that involves many different parts of the brain, both conscious and unconscious. The process includes preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification (Wallace, 1926). Depending on the stage of the creative process and the task at hand, different brain regions are involved. Effective communication between these regions is key to creative thinking (Bullas, 2021).

Three distinct brain networks are at work during most creative thinking; namely, i. the executive control network, which activates and operates when a person needs to focus, ii. the default network, related to brainstorming and daydreaming, and iii. the salience network, which is for detecting environmental stimuli and switching between the executive and default brain networks (Patnaik, 2021). See chapter 8 for more information on the creativity of neuroscience.                        



Research in the neuroscience of creativity is finding that highly original thinkers show very strong connectivity between three activities of the brain; namely, mind wandering, visualization, and divergent thinking, and all three can be strengthened with practice.

1.     Mind-wandering or daydreaming involves different parts of our brains becoming activated, accessing information that may have previously been dormant or is out of memory. This activity accounts for the emergence of creativity, insights, and solutions to problems that had not been considered as follows: Stop participants during a task and ask them where their attention is directed (Weinstein, 2017).

  • Engage in both voluntary and involuntary.

  • mind wandering happens when we actually don't intend to mind wander.

  • mind wandering occurs when one drifts off deliberately.


Visualization is an innate process that allows us to create mental images of objects, ideas, and concepts without the use of our five senses. The ability to imagine and visualize things in our minds is closely linked to our creativity, problem-solving skills, and memory (Metivier, 2019).


Research suggests that when we visualize something, the same regions of the brain are activated as when we actually experience it. When you imagine engaging in an activity such as walking, the same neural pathways in the cortex are stimulated and activated as if you had walked (Metivier, 2019). This implies that visualization can have a significant impact on our cognitive and emotional responses, as well as our overall well-being. Humans have been using visualization for thousands of years, from cave paintings to modern-day art, and it remains an essential part of our cognitive abilities.

Following are a couple of visualization exercises.

  • Picture a burning candle incorporating kinesthetic, auditory, visual, emotional, and olfactory senses.

  • Envision eating a cool, smooth, juicy apple.

Divergent thinking (see Creativity Module 9.12) was a term coined by psychologist J. P. Guilford (1967). It is the ability to generate many ideas or solutions from a single idea or piece of information. Divergent thinking is one of the characteristics of creativity tapped by the Reisman Diagnostic Creativity Assessment (RDCA). Divergent thinking tends to be spontaneous and free flowing. It occurs when individuals attempt to make new connections while keeping their minds open to new possibilities as they present themselves. The more possibilities one comes up with during the process, the stronger their divergent thinking. We can intentionally enhance our creativity by engaging in creative activities or practicing creative exercises and utilizing our executive functions to stimulate our salience network by actively seeking out more unconventional ideas and refraining from suppressing them. (Patnaik, 2021). The following are techniques to stimulate divergent thinking:

i.      Brainstorming. Generate a list of ideas about a category (e.g., toys with wheels or boys’ names) to generate as many ideas as possible in a designated period.

ii.    Keeping a Journal. Write one’s thoughts on a topic for later analysis.

iii.   Freewriting. Analogous to the written form of brainstorming, this involves writing non-stop about a topic for a short period of time. Write whatever comes to mind without stopping to proofread or revise the writing.

Topics that learners can investigate further via the internet relating to the Neuroscience of Creativity are:


  • How is neuroscience related to creativity?

  • What neuroscience says regarding the link between creativity and madness

  • Do creative brains work differently?

  • According to neuroscience, at what age is the mind most creative?

  • Why are some people born creative?

  • Why do adults lose their creativity?

  • Why Is Creativity in Decline?

  • Neuroscientific approaches to the scientific study of creativity

  • The neural bases of creativity

  • Is creativity inheritable?

  • Does brain damage affect creativity?

  • Do neurodegenerative conditions affect creativity?

  • Neuroimaging studies of creativity

  • The neuroscientific basis of creativity-enhancing methodologies

  • Applying the neuroscience of creativity to creativity training

·       Are creative brains built differently?

  • Is there a neurological relationship between intelligence and creativity?

  • Is there



1.     Define the three brain activities described in Box 9.15.


2.     Give examples of mind wandering, visualization and divergent thinking


3.     For learners from grade 5 to adulthood have them select a topic from the previous activities to research and create a final project that may be a written paper, an oral presentation or a media creation such as an infographic (see

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