Not all neuroscientists agree that creativity comes from the brain’s right hemisphere, while analytical and logical activity is thought to come from the left. Instead, they insist that creativity draws from both hemispheres. Now, a group of researchers may have just found this to be true.
For their study, the researchers recruited 32 jazz guitar players with varied experience levels. Each musician was then asked to improvise to six jazz songs alongside programmed drums, bass and piano accompaniments while being recorded. Afterwards, each of their improvisations were played to four musicians and teachers specializing in jazz music to rate their creativity. Throughout each performance, the researchers also recorded high-density electroencephalograms (EEGs) from each musician.
Following this, the researchers compared the EEGs taken during the performances of those considered to be highly creative and those considered less creative. In the end, they found that among those rated highly creative, there was typically more activity in the brain’s posterior left hemisphere regions, whereas in the lower-rated performances, there was typically greater activity in the frontal right hemisphere areas.
Alone, these findings may suggest that performances considered as highly creative are associated with activity in the posterior left hemisphere regions, whereas less creative performances are linked to the regions in the right hemisphere. However, this conclusion would be premature.
Upon controlling the results for factors such as experience level, the researchers found that virtually all of the differences between the performances rated as more or less creative could be found in the right hemisphere’s frontal region. Given that musicians with more experience in public performances tended to perform more creatively, the researchers thus said that from their research, it seems that although creativity is a ‘right-brain’ ability when a person engages in an unfamiliar situation, when in a more familiar situation, creativity become more of ‘left-hemisphere’ pursuit.
“If creativity is defined in terms of the quality of a product, such as a song, invention, poem or painting, then the left hemisphere plays a key role,” said John Kounois, one of the lead authors of the study. “However, if creativity is understood as a person's ability to deal with novel, unfamiliar situations, as is the case for novice improvisers, then the right hemisphere plays the leading role."