The common belief that the right hemisphere of the brain is the source of creativity while the left brain is responsible for logic and math may well be less true than once thought.
In a quest to determine the exact source of creativity in the brain, researchers have found that the left hemisphere of your brain is critical for creative thinking. The finding adds an asterisk to the belief that if you paint or sculpt, you are right-brained.
Researchers discovered that while the right half of the brain performs the bulk of the creative process, the left half makes important contributions.
The study, posted online in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, focuses on how the brain tackles visual creative tasks. The findings support previous discoveries about how the brain handles musical improvisation.
“We need both hemispheres for creative processing,” said co-author Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California.
Aziz-Zadeh and her team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of architecture students, who tend to be visually creative.
While being scanned, the subjects were shown three shapes: a circle, a C, and an 8. They were then asked to visualize images that could be made by rearranging those shapes – for example, a face (with the 8 on its side to become the eyes, the C on its side to become the smiling mouth, and the circle in the center as the nose).
They were also asked to simply try to piece three geometric shapes together with their minds and see if they formed a square or a rectangle – a task that requires similar spatial processing, but not necessarily creativity.
Researchers discovered that although the creative task was mainly handled by the right brain, the left brain hemisphere was actually activated more than the right. These results indicate that the left brain may well be a crucial supporter of creativity in the brain.
Aziz-Zadeh said she plans to explore more of how different types of creativity (painting, acting, singing) are created by the brain – what they have in common, and what makes them different.