Creativity

Physiology

When a person realizes there is a problem or a task before them that requires creative thinking it triggers the formation of a focused stimulation in the cerebral cortex (some groups of nerve cells are more active than others.) Moreover, the hypothalamus causes a noradrenaline rush which makes one feel “creative anxiety” or a sensation that something is missing or lost. The feeling doesn’t give the person rest as anxiety stimulates the thinking process and the search for solutions. From a neurophysiologic point of view, looking for solutions is the forming of connections between nerve cells. Some cells are responsible for the problem solving process (providing one with the needed option), and some cells aren’t.

The focused simulation is referred to as a “dominant” by neurophysiologists. A dominant works in such a way that it increases effectiveness of cell connectivity (excitability of the nerve tract) towards the dominant. Thus, everything that may be related to a solution is “drawn” to the excitation focus. A search is made for “useful” connections between “useful” nerve cells.

When an image of interconnections that looks like a solution is established among nerve cells the hypothalamus creates another hormonal rush, but this time it’s of the “happiness hormone” serotonin. One feels pleasant excitement, joy, and delight and this feeling of excitement precedes finding a clue or solution. This means that insight consists of two short phases that last fractions of a second but are of paramount importance in the creation of something new. The first phase is excitement that can also be called the “realization premonition.” The second phase is realization itself, the solution that appears in one’s mind.

Scientists lean towards the conclusion that excitement is a subconscious signal about finding a solution or a marker indicating an existing solution. Without feeling excited the solution remains on a subconscious level. Experimentally it was learned that even irrelevant emotional anxiety may trigger realization or a new perspective on a given situation.

It is thought that the well-coordinated work of both the right and left cerebral hemispheres of your brain is the physiological basis for the interaction of the two main elements in the creation of something new: imagination and criticism.

The right hemisphere is in charge of creative, synthetic thinking and envisions things as a whole (imagination), while the left hemisphere is in charge of logical, casual thinking (criticism). A too dominant left hemisphere causes an “inner critic” to be too strict, which prevents a person from realizing unique ideas. A too dominant right hemisphere leads to unrestrained fantasizing and an inability to differ realizable ideas from the crazy ones. The more coordinated and harmonious the work between hemispheres, the better the understanding of reality and the more ideas a person can create. In addition to that, the activation of one hemisphere slows down the other. That’s why, to achieve the harmonious interaction, alternating between the domination of each hemisphere is suggested when solving a problem.

What triggers creative thinking? How can one control the harmonious coordination between the two hemispheres?

  • A sleep and rest routine - Sleeping activates the right hemisphere. If you are always sleep-deprived you invite domination of the left hemisphere.
  • Fresh air - Brain cells of both hemispheres “fall asleep” and stop interacting in closed environments.
  • Physical activity - There are many “motor cells” which are “scattered” around the brain; their activation also helps to activate neighboring “thinking” and “receiving” cells. The left side of the body is connected with the right hemisphere, and the right side of the body is connected with the left hemisphere; massaging the left palm will activate the right hemisphere and vice versa. Hemisphere interaction is improved by exercises that stimulate crossing symmetry of the right and left sides of the body. For example, lifting the right hand and left leg at the same time.
  • Sobriety - Researches say that drinking even a small dose of alcohol inhibits the performance of the hypothalamus for a long time. It impedes insight which means that all unique ideas on a subconscious level can stay there unrealized.
  • Constant change of activities, conditions, and scenery - If you can’t think of something for a long time, you need to put off the problem’s solution for some time. A change of conditions in the real world stimulates changes in context when thinking and thus creates a new vision.

 

Thus any person is capable of, and ready for, creative search and activities. To keep physiological systems functioning well, they need to be used and exercised. In other words, one needs to keep looking for creative solutions.