Friday, March 13, 2009

Isolating creativity in the brain - On improv, music, the brain and creativity

[5 March 2009 - The Harvard University Gazette] How -- exactly -- does improvisation happen? What's involved when a musician sits down at the piano and plays flurries of notes in a free fall, without a score, without knowing much about what will happen moment to moment? Is it possible to find the sources of a creative process? Aaron Berkowitz, a graduate student in ethnomusicology at Harvard, and Daniel Ansari, a professor in the psychology department of the University of Western Ontario, recently collaborated on an experiment designed to study brain activity during musical improvisation in order to get closer to answering these questions. The Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative awarded the collaborators a grant to look at musical improvisation in trained musicians, utilizing brain scans done with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology. Their paper, Generation of Novel Motor Sequences: The Neural Correlates of Musical Improvisation," was published in the journal NeuroImage, and received the journal's 2008 Editor's Choice Award in Systems Neuroscience. More

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