Leonardo, for one, spent a fair amount of
time dissecting human cadavers because he wanted to know how the various bones related
to one each other and how the muscles related to the bones. So he wanted to have a realistic
understanding of the human anatomy because he was depicting real live people sitting,
gesturing, walking, and he wanted to get this as absolutely correct as possible.
In order to understand how the body functions, we need to know something about the anatomy
of the body, it’s sort of obvious.The more we want to depict the mind, the more it helps
to understand the mind, and one way to understand the mind is to understanding the brain. So
it is conceivable that as we get deeper and deeper insights into the mind, artists will
get ideas about how combinations of stimuli affect, for example, emotional states that
will allow them to depict those emotional states better. But in addition, we’re
beginning to get in very, very primitive terms, some insights into the nature of creativity.
Hughling Jackson, the great neurologist in the 19th century, thought that the left hemisphere
is involved in language. We know this is true. And the left hemisphere is primarily involved
in logical processes, calculation, mathematics, rational thinking. The right hemisphere, he
thought, is more involved with musicality, which is true. The sing-song in my language
comes from the right hemisphere, the grammar and the articulation comes from my left hemisphere.
Okay? So he thought that the right hemisphere is more involved in musicality in, you know,
synthesis, putting things together and an aspect of creativity. And he felt that the
two hemispheres inhibit one another. So if you have lesions of the left hemisphere, that
removes the inhibitory constraint on the right hemisphere and frees up certain processes.
And he found that certain kids that develop later in life, let’s say, later in their
teens, aphasia, a language difficulty; it freed up in them a musicality which they didn’t
have before. People have returned to that more recently in the analysis of a dementia
called Frontotemporal Dementia. Frontotemporal Dementia is a dementia somewhat similar to
Alzheimer’s disease, it actually begins earlier, that primarily affects the temporal
lobe of the brain and the front lobe of the brain. If it’s only expressed on the left
side, people with Frontotemporal Dementia begin to show creativity that they’ve never
shown before. So if you were painting before, you might start, if you develop Frontotemporal
Dementia on the left side, to use colors that you’ve never used before to try forms that
you’ve never used before. If you never painted before, you might take up painting for the
first time. So this is really quite unusual. There are also a group of people who
have studied aspects of creativity. I can give you a problem that can be solved in one
of two ways, systematically working your way through it or putting it together, take a
guess, an Aha Phenomenon. And they found that when people do it in a sort of creative way,
the Aha Phenomenon, there is a particular area in the right side of the brain that lights
up. And they show this not only with imaging, but also with electrophysiological recording.
So this is really quite interesting. You have a number of sort of indirect, not
the most compelling evidence in the world, the Aha Phenomenon is well-documented, but
it’s only a component of creativity. Number of suggestions, there are aspects of the right
hemisphere that might be involved in creativity. But look, as we have been saying all along,
we are at a very early stage in understanding higher mental processes, so it’s amazing
we know anything about creativity, but this is certainly – we are heading into an era
in which one can really get very, very good insights into it and the kinds of situations
that lead to increased creativity… you know, is group think productive? Does it lead to
great – greater creativity or does it inhibit individual creativity? Lots of these questions
are being explored, both from a social psychological and from a biological point of view.