Yet Another Reason to Exercise: It May Make You More Creative

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki chats about testing out her current hypothesis.

Wendy Suzuki: One of the most fascinating things about creativity is that the most recent studies are showing that it’s not just one side of the brain or the other side of the brain that everybody will tell you. It really is the most creative people are using both sides of the brain together. So this is an important concept that the brain is subdivided into two major hemispheres. We have two of each structure. Almost all the structures of our brain are paired. So the idea is well one side of the brain is for certain things and the other side of the brain is important for other things. And the one thing we can say for sure is yes, language is on the left side of the brain. But for creativity it actually makes more sense to me that with a function so broad as that, you would benefit from having the most cross talk possible between all parts of your brain. In fact that’s exactly what the neuroscience is showing. So then once we start to understand — we’re starting to understand a little bit about the brain circuits involved in creativity, that involves a lot the prefrontal cortex as you might expect. Then the question is, well, how do I up my creativity? That’s what everybody is interested in.

Well there is exciting new evidence that one of the functions of the hippocampus, an area that we know is important for long-term memory is that it’s not only important for long-term memory, but it’s critical for the function of imagination. So people have been testing people with other people, patients with damage to the hippocampi for long periods of time. No surprise they had memory impairments. They were amnesic. But one day an experimenter back in 2007 tested amnesic patients on tasks of imagination. And she asked them can you imagine a situation that you’ve never experienced before. In this case it was imagine a tropical beach. And she compared the responses to people age matched and education matched people without hippocampal damage.

What she found was these hippocampal patients, these amnesic patients who had normal language abilities, were unable to imagine a future scenario. They could say things like well, there’s blue ocean; there might be sand. But they couldn’t elaborate at all. Whereas control patients, or control subjects were able to talk all about, you know, what the beach looked like, the buildings on the beach, the boats going past them. And this led other researchers to image the brains of subjects, normal subjects as they were remembering things. And when they remembered things the hippocampus lit up. But then they asked well imagine something new. And in that situation the hippocampus lit up again. So there’s multiple modes of evidence suggesting the hippocampus is not only involved in memory but is also important for imagination. A key component of creativity. We know that exercise stimulates what we can neurogenesis or the birth of brand-new brain cells in the hippocampus. But because of those brand new brain cells in my hippocampus I’m also enhancing my imagination. So the hypothesis that I’m working on in my lab is: Can exercise actually enhance creativity?

Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki is hard at work in her lab experimenting with a new hypothesis: Can you stimulate creativity through exercise? She thinks so, and she's got a wide array of research backing her up.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Reigning in brutality - how one man's outrage led to the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions

The history of the Geneva Conventions tells us how the international community draws the line on brutality.

Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino. Painting by Adolphe Yvon. 1861.
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Henry Dunant's work led to the Red Cross and conventions on treating prisoners humanely.
  • Four Geneva Conventions defined the rules for prisoners of war, torture, naval and medical personnel and more.
  • Amendments to the agreements reflect the modern world but have not been ratified by all countries.
Keep reading Show less

The most culturally chauvinist people in Europe? Greeks, new research suggests

Meanwhile, Spaniards are the least likely to say their culture is superior to others.

Image: Pew Research Center
Strange Maps
  • Survey by Pew Research Center shows great variation in chauvinism across Europe.
  • Eight most chauvinist countries are in the east, and include Russia.
  • British much more likely than French (and slightly more likely than Germans) to say their culture is "superior" to others.
Keep reading Show less
Photo credit: Ian Waldie / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The coalition argues that government agencies might abuse facial recognition technology.
  • Google and Microsoft have expressed concern about the potential problems of facial recognition technology.
  • Meanwhile, Amazon has been actively marketing the technology to law enforcement agencies in the U.S.
Keep reading Show less