I have long talked about how the human brain aims to be as efficient as possible.
One of the ways it achieves this is by linking together networks that often work together and strengthening the connections between those neurons, as well as making those networks faster at working together.
However, a new series of brain imaging studies by UCLA researchers has found that the brains of highly creative Big-C people may be wired differently.
By comparing brains scans of 21 artists and 21 scientists noted to be highly creative, and comparing those brain activities to 23 control “intelligent” people while these participants completed divergent and convergent thinking exercises, the researchers found that the highly creative people’s brains had more direct connections between distant regions of the brain, whereas the intelligent people had stronger closer “hub” connections.
“Our results showed that highly creative people had unique brain connectivity that tended to stay off the beaten path,”
said Ariana Anderson, lead author of a new journal article.
Essentially, the research found that the most efficient use of the brain’s resources would be strong connections between hubs of neurons located close to one another, and then for these hubs to communicate between themselves. This is similar to how many airlines will have a regional hub that shorter flights connect to, and then switching planes at those hubs for connections to other international hubs. But the brains of the highly creative people seem to have developed more direct longer-distance connections across the brain, which would be less efficient but potentially faster.
Additionally, co-author Robert Bilder said:
“Exceptional creativity was associated with more random connectivity at the global scale—a pattern that is less ‘efficient’ but would appear helpful in linking distant brain nodes to each other,”
And it is these more “random” connections that appear to help highly-creative people make new connections and associations to solve problems which other people did not see before.
Even if it comes at the price of making the brain a bit less energy-efficient in the process.
So what can we learn from this? Well, we already know that the brain continues to be able to change as we get older thanks to neuroplasticity, and make connections between brain regions more efficient the more they are used.
As a result, if we continue to push ourselves past our comfort barriers and trigger the activation of distantly connected brain regions through creative activities, it may be possible to strengthen these distant, random connections as well.
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