Where does creativity reside? While there are numerous areas of the brain that are involved in the creative process, there does seem to be one particular area of the brain that plays a much larger role than previously thought. One may think that the areas that govern executive function, the higher level areas of the brain, should play a large role. A joint group of researchers from Stanford’s School of Medicine and Institute of Design set out to discover the main area of the brain responsible for creativity. The results were very surprising. It turns out the cerebellum, an area largely thought to control motor movement, has a major influence on creativity. In fact, engaging the executive-control centers of the brain seem to have a negative effect on creativity.
Measuring creativity provide to be a challenging. After all, creativity is rather unique to each person. Additionally, the test subjects would need to be scanned in an MRI. The solution was brilliant. The subjects were requested to draw a picture of a simple object while being scanned. Then subjects were asked to draw a word like “pinpoint” in the style of Pictionary while being scanned. A 5 point scale was created so each picture could be evaluated. When paired with the scans, the involvement of the cerebellum was much more pronounced then previously thought.
As many of us have experienced, creativity is not a switch that can be flipped on or off. Instead it is an integrated part of brain starting in the cerebellum. I believe the implications of this study are profound. For creativity to flourish, movement should be encouraged. Developing strong motor skills is necessary for this seemingly unrelate activity. Also, when “stuck” on a situation where creativity is required, it may be helpful to go and take a walk or ride a bike. Not thinking about the solution may actually be the key for developing that creative spark.