To improvise well, the self-censorship must first be turned off. Image: Bep, wikimedia.org
Reading aloud When jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off the region for self-censorship and self-censorship. In this way inhibitions are suppressed and creativity is given free rein, as Charles Limb and Allen Braun from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found out. Limb and Braun recruited six jazz pianists for the research project, who agreed to play music in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using this device, the researchers recorded the brain activity of the musicians during normal playing from memory and during an improvisation. They instructed the subjects to perform four different tasks: first, they all played the C major scale to the beat of a metronome. Then they improvised at the same measure with the notes of this scale. In the third part, everyone played a memorably learned blues tune and at last everyone improvised a piece of their own.

The scientists then analyzed the MRI images of the brain and first looked at the brain regions active during normal music making. To get on the track of creativity, they then removed them from the recordings of the improvising brain. In this way, Limb and Braun were able to isolate the brain regions unique to improvisation: All musicians showed that activity in the so-called dorsolateral prefrontal cortex declined significantly. This area is responsible for planned actions and self-censorship and is very active during a job interview, for example. In contrast, the medial prefrontal cortex, in which self-expression and individual actions have their origin, showed significantly increased activity.

"We think that improvising tells a story about yourself and eliminates all inhibiting elements, " Limb sums up the results of the investigation. The same mechanisms could be found not only with jazz musicians but with all people, the researchers believe. Spontaneously having new thoughts, for example, to solve a problem off the cuff, is an integral part of man.

Charles Limb and Allen Braun (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore): PLoS One, Volume 3, e1679 ddp / science.de? Livia Rasche advertisement

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