The Cerebellum Supports Creativity

Source: Stanford University, May 2015

Investigators at Stanford University have found a surprising link between creative problem-solving and heightened activity in the cerebellum, a structure located in the back of the brain and more typically thought of as the body’s movement-coordination center.

In designing the study, the researchers drew inspiration from the game Pictionary.

The study, to be published May 28 in Scientific Reports, also suggests that shifting the brain’s higher-level, executive-control centers into higher gear impairs, rather than enhances, creativity.

“We found that activation of the brain’s executive-control centers — the parts of the brain that enable you to plan, organize and manage your activities — is negatively associated with creative task performance,” said Reiss, who holds the Howard C. Robbins Professorship in Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences.

“Creativity is an incredibly valued human attribute in every single human endeavor, be it work or play,” he continued. “In art, science and business, creativity is the engine that drives progress. As a practicing psychiatrist, I even see its importance to interpersonal relationships. People who can think creatively and flexibly frequently have the best outcomes.”

“As our study also shows, sometimes a deliberate attempt to be creative may not be the best way to optimize your creativity,” he said. “While greater effort to produce creative outcomes involves more activity of executive-control regions, you actually may have to reduce activity in those regions in order to achieve creative outcomes.”

Saggar put it more bluntly. “The more you think about it, the more you mess it up,” he said.

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