From Publishers Weekly
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From Scientific American
Nancy C. Andreasen, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Iowa who started her career as a Renaissance English scholar, argues that some characteristics of creative peoplesuch as openness to new experiences and sensitivity to sensory inputsmay also make them more prone to mental and emotional problems. Her study of Iowa Writers Workshop participants shows a correlation between mood disorders and creativity, and other scientists have found similar tendencies in studies of literary and artistic types. Such research, however, has not shown a suspected link between artistic creativity and schizophrenic symptoms. Andreasen, who tends to draw conclusions primarily from her own work, notes that she is performing a study to see if any such tendency exists among especially creative scientists.
Despite the paucity of evidence, Andreasen suggests that creativity arises largely from the "association cortex"parts of the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes that integrate sensory and other information. This idea, however, has just begun to be researched; Andreasen, again, relies heavily on her own study, this one done with positron-emission tomography (PET) scans of peoples brains during free association.
In pondering the topic of genius, Andreasen points out that certain historical times and places have produced a bounty of brilliance. Among these "cradles of creativity" she lists ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence and mid- to late 19th-century Paris. Her list of factors spurring creative thought in such places is plausible if unsurprising: intellectual freedom, open competition, a critical mass of creative people, the presence of mentors and patrons, and some degree of economic prosperity.
Andreasen also provides tips for boosting creativity. For adults, she proposes exercises such as making close observations of a chosen item or imagining oneself to be someplace or someone else. Her suggestions for kids are mainly common sense, including less television exposure and more music and outdoor activity. The Creating Brain contains much of interest, even if breakthroughs lie mostly in the future.