Scientists are trying to understand the creative brain.
Hmmm, some people in my family have been trying to understand my brain for decades. My dad used to shake his head at me and intone, “It’s just your imagination, Pammy.”
He never knew how angry that statement made me. What did he mean, JUST my imagination? Did that mean it didn’t count?
But now, wonderfully, neuroscientists and psychologists are claiming that “imagination is the cornerstone of creativity.”
Unfortunately, back when I was growing up in the “olden” days, creativity wasn’t so highly touted. But now a neuroscientist and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute of the University of Southern California says, “having original ideas is a process, not a place (within the brain).”
The implication is that it takes a lot of brain to pull off imagination and creativity.
So my capability to see tiny, dragon-like lizards on top of maple trees that suddenly glow purple, is not “just” my imagination.
Researchers are now determining that imagination is only possible with the use of (1) memory (yes, it’s good news that you remember the smell of your 7th grade science teacher’s hair spray) and (2) emotions.
Here’s one of my good (emotional) memories: my brother sneaks down to the basement where I’m watching an old movie on TV – “Carousel” with Shirley Jones, in which the love of her life is killed. Little brother taunts me because I’m sobbing at the end, but my dad defends me, saying, “The world would be a better place if all people had the imagination to feel other people’s pain and joy.”
Which brings me to another point researchers are discovering. Some people are inherently more creative and imaginative than others.
I always knew that. Now, perhaps others will view creativity and imagination as immensely special and as a talent to strive for, not ignore.
In fact, a Harvard University researcher noted: “the brain is a creativity machine. You just need to know how to manipulate your software to make it work.”
Yes, that’s what I do at 5:30 a.m. when I gently wake up, neurons firing, the vivid dream world slowly fading away as I locate Geminia and Frederica, my two soul soothers/imaginators who sit invisibly within my eardrums.
“Did you notice the large whale swimming in the Bay this morning?” Geminia whispers as I begin my early morning walk.
I see a hiccup of a splash in the middle of the bay, and then a seal slaps up, barking an explanation: “That’s Hector. He gets lost all the time. He’s supposed to be in Hawaii by now!”
Ah, Pammy, there’s your imagination again….