“Interviews with creative people reveal that inspiration and ideas often come to them when they aren’t looking for them, when they are in the shower, or running, or having trouble falling asleep, Dr. Andreasen reported in a recent research paper.
This suggests that creativity involves an unconscious rather than a conscious process, she said.
Toronto researcher Oshin Vartanian suspects that creativity is related to the ability to stifle our inner critic. He is interested in how some parts of the brain are silenced so that out-of-the box ideas can emerge.
Dr. Vartanian painstakingly maps regions that are either activated or suppressed during creative problem-solving and then looks to see whether patients with damage to those areas have difficulty performing the same kind of tasks.
There are, however, also many different kinds of creativity. A jazz musician may come up with a new idea in a very different way from a mathematician. Researchers are getting closer to understanding the mechanisms involved in different kinds of creativity, where they overlap and the features they have in common.”