In a new Cerebrum article, Dana grantee Charles Limb, faculty member at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Peabody Conservatory of Music, and postdoctoral fellow Mónica López-González describe their research into musical creativity and the brain.
They are using brain imaging to study the neural underpinnings of spontaneous artistic creativity, from jazz riffs to freestyle rap. So far, they have found that brain areas deactivated during improvisation are also at rest during dreaming and meditation, while activated areas include those controlling language and sensorimotor skills. Even with relatively few completed studies, researchers have concluded that musical creativity cannot be tied to just one brain area or process.
As Limb and López-González conclude, there is much left to study—they would like research to branch out into visual and performing arts to “formulate a more generalizable theory on artistic creativity.”
To see video of jazz musicians and hip-hop freestylers in an fMRI scanner, watch Dr. Limb’s TED talk.