Creativity, brain, and art: biological and neurological considerations

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8:87615 (2014)
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Abstract

Creativity is commonly thought of as a positive advance for society that transcends the status quo knowledge. Humans display an inordinate capacity for it in a broad range of activities, with art being only one. Most work on creativity’s neural substrates measures general creativity, and that is done with laboratory tasks, whereas specific creativity in art is gleaned from acquired brain damage, largely in observing established visual artists, and some in visual de novo artists (became artists after the damage). The verb “to create” has been erroneously equated with creativity; creativity, in the classic sense, does not appear to be enhanced following brain damage, regardless of etiology. The turning to communication through art in lieu of language deficits reflects a biological survival strategy. Creativity in art, and in other domains, is most likely dependent on intact and healthy knowledge and semantic conceptual systems, which are represented in several pathways in the cortex. It is adversely affected when these systems are dysfunctional, for congenital reasons (savant autism) or because of acquired brain damage (stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s), whereas inherent artistic talent and skill appear less affected. Clues to the neural substrates of general creativity and specific art creativity can be gleaned from considering that art is produced spontaneously mainly by humans, that there are unique neuroanatomical and neurofunctional organizations in the human brain, and that there are biological antecedents of innovation in animals.

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