This article from CEREBRUM, a publication of the Dana Foundation, explores recent research into how the brain works creatively. It is fascinating. While the process retains mystery and many unknowns, there are a couple of take aways. In particular, priming our brains before we begin a creative task seems to make a difference, as such an activity activates the two networks that are central to creativity, the default and the control. We need to generate ideas, but we also need to evaluate them.
The hippocampus, which is instrumental in memory, is also deeply involved in creative processing.
As far as boosting creativity, here’s a quote from the study.
While it remains unclear whether creativity can be improved in the long-term (i.e, trait creativity), some strategies may boost short-term (i.e. state) creativity. Given what we’ve learned about the neuroscience of creativity, it seems possible that harnessing the flexible and generative potential of the default network may provide a short-term boost. For example, when we are stuck on a problem—a phenomenon known as fixation or impasse—taking a break to let our minds wander may loosen things up and help us find a creative solution. Another potentially useful strategy involves priming the episodic system. The episodic induction process mentioned earlier—thinking about a past experience with as much detail as possible—has been shown to temporarily boost the number of ideas people generate on a creative thinking task.
Read the whole article in the winter 2020 issue of Cerebrum..