If you need to get your creative juices flowing, you may think a night of refreshing sleep would help. Instead, you might want to try it when you’re dog-tired and downright exhausted. Why? Because research has shown that exhaustion helps the brain to stop filtering. Using computer games to task the brain
A study conducted by the Nice Sophia Antipolis University in Nice, France revealed exhaustion can lead to increased creativity. Participants in the study consisted of undergraduate students that were asked to spend time playing a computer game.
The game involved ignoring several arrows on the screen in order to determine the direction of just one arrow. There were two versions of the game. One version had all arrows pointing the same way, while the other had arrows pointing in opposite directions.
Students were then asked to work through a sequence of verbal tests. One test asked them to develop creative uses for commonplace items like paperclips.
Tasks requiring focused attention led to increased creativity
The findings of the study conclusively showed that participants who played the computer game version that required more focused attention had higher creativity levels than the others. The conclusion of the researchers was that the focused attention exhausted the brain’s ability to filter things it might otherwise consider unnecessary and diminished the participant’s inhibition.
The researchers wrote, “… these findings suggest that inhibition selectively affects some types of creative processes and that, when resources for inhibition are lacking, the frequency and the originality of ideas was facilitated.”
Similar creativity from lack of inhibition has been seen in musicians
Previous research by Charles Limb, M.D., otolaryngologist and surgeon, conducted research on rappers and jazz musicians. He found that brain activity when musicians were creating new music was linked to less activity in the region of the brain associated to inhibition.
In order to understand the creative process of the musicians, Dr. Limb studied brain scans of the musicians using MRI machines during the musician’s improvisation and freestyle playing.
The scan results clearly showed that during the creative process, the self-expression areas of the brain, such as language and visual imagery, were highly activated. At the same time, the inhibition region of the brain was quieted.
The quieted inhibition allows for willingness to make mistakes
Dr. Limb explained that this happens “so that you’re not inhibited, so that you’re willing to make mistakes, so that you’re not constantly shutting down all of these new generative impulses.”
Dr. Limb’s research colleague and co-author Allen Braun pointed out similarities between the brain scans of improvising musicians and those of dreamers during REM sleep.
According to Braun, “It’s tantalizing to think some connection exists between improvisation and dreaming, which are both spontaneous events. These musicians may, in fact, be in a waking dream.”
Still a long way to go in understanding the mind and creativity
Additional research by Dr. Limb found that musicians who improvised with a partner had high levels of activity in the language region of the brain. This finding could indicate the music may be interpreted as a “language” of its own.
“There’s a certain interface between music and language,” said Braun. “In fact, music therapy can aid in stroke recovery, as patients can learn to sing before they recover their speech. It was an idea I was already mulling in my head when Charles came to me with his proposal.”
“We know very little about how we are able to be creative,” explained Dr. Limb in a TED talk. But he has previously explained to Hopkins Medicine, that a fundamental part of humanity is creativity. “Without this type of creativity, humans wouldn’t have advanced as a species,” Dr. Limb said. “It’s an integral part of who we are.
It will be interesting to learn about the findings of future research on the subject of creativity. In the meantime, why not see what a little tiredness does for your creativity?
— The Alternative Daily