Are the brains of highly creative people genuinely different than others? The answer, according to some recent neuroscience, is yes — but not in the way you may think. Many neuroscientific advances over the years have focused on identifying which specific parts of the brain correlate to particular talents or behaviors, which has been useful; knowing that the amygdala, for instance, is partially responsible for how we form emotional memories gives us a lot of insight into how this can go wrong with Alzheimer's disease or brain damage.
But this sort of brain science can also give rise to the erroneous idea that the brain is a bunch of separate bunches of tissue, all performing distinct jobs. Instead, their interconnection and how they share out particular neural responsibilities are an important part of the picture. And it's that connectivity that's in focus when it comes to new research about creativity.
What's this research good for? Well, it may go a long way towards demystifying artistic talent, which many of us still regard as a kind of divine "inspiration," rather than something that could be a combination of neural predisposition and dogged cultivation. It could also give us more insight into what happens when things go haywire in the brain's physical structure, and how that affects mental work and behavior, from epilepsy to memory loss. It's also, frankly, just deeply cool. Here's how creative brains function differently.