How You Record Ideas May Impact Creativity

Software for creatives must cultivate space for musing, writes Morpholio co-creator Anna Kenoff.

A tech VC recently asked me, “Do you even use your iPad anymore? I think they are over.” To which, I replied—perhaps a bit too loudly—”Yes!” There is nothing over when it comes to the potential of touch. Apple’s investment in the iPad Pro and Pencil only reinforces this.

Designers need tools that disinhibit the brain to allow room for creativity to happen. In this sense, the touch screen is one of the device revolution’s most important gifts to creatives. Touch can make the sought-after “ah ha” come easier.

While still a new frontier, neuroscientists such as Rex Jung, assistant professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, have looked closely into brain structure and function to better understand creativity—as opposed to intelligence. If you think of the brain as a series of pathways—where intelligence is like the speed and accuracy with which one makes connections along the paths—creativity occurs when the brain makes unexpected or new intersections.

To achieve this productive “meandering,” Jung and his colleagues hypothesize that you may need to enter a state of “transient hypo-frontality,” or a “down regulation of the frontal lobe” in order to allow other parts of the brain to take over, and encourage you to wander along new paths. They believe that the rule-based frontal lobe has to be slowed down in order for new forms of reasoning to occur—ultimately, spawning creative discovery.

Jung conducted a test in which he used sMRI, Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging, to monitor the brain activity of undergraduate students while they were asked to perform tasks that required varying levels of creativity—convergent thinking, divergent thinking, insight, and reasoning measures. The images look at the thickness of the cerebral cortex, the undulating outer layer of the brain, and found that throughout the 131 cases, thinness of gray matter across various regions of the brain was positively correlated with creative capacity. In other words, thinner cortex equaled higher creativity.

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