Scanning the Brains of Rappers As They Come Up With Rhymes

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A new study finds that when rappers improvise, parts of their brains linked to motivation, organization and integration get active, while portions responsible for self-monitoring and control get quiet, reports Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience. The findings suggest freestyle rappers essentially shut down the parts of their brains that might disrupt their creative flow:

“Researchers recruited 12 male freestyle rappers to come drop rhymes while in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The rappers were all given an eight-measure backing track and a set of lyrics to memorize. After they rapped those lyrics in the fMRI scanner, they were given the same eight bars of music and told to freestyle about whatever they liked.

The rappers’ freestyle tracks were rated for creative use of language. The researchers found that the highest-rated rappers had more activity in the upper part of the medial prefrontal cortex. They also showed lots of activity in the posterior lateral temporal region of the brain, the back section of the brain lobe that sits behind the ear. This section is traditionally linked to mental lexicon, or vocabulary.

The researchers aren’t yet sure if this improvising brain network can be trained for quicker thinking, but the study does suggest there’s nothing magic about creativity, said researcher Allen Braun of the National Institutes of Health: ‘These are just simple rearrangements of brain activity and cognitive processes that are a normal part of everyday experiences.’” (Read more here.)

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