Bright Minds Create Differently

§ May 26th, 2009 § Filed under brain research, neuroscience § No Comments

A recent study by the MIND Research Network’s Rex Jung, a research scientist at MRN and an assistant professor at The University of New Mexico Department of Neurosurgery, shows that intelligent minds operate differently when forming creative thoughts.

By scanning the brains of 56 college-age students he found that a chemical associated with creativity called N-acetylaspartate, or NAA, works more discretely in the frontal lobe of those with high IQs (120 and above, or the top 9%) than it does in those with average IQs.

“It’s a funny kind of finding, and I wish I knew why,” Jung said. “This is the first time we’ve seen real biological evidence that creativity works differently in highly intelligent people. Why that is, though, is the real $64,000 question.”

(The team defined creativity as having the “cognitive skills necessary to produce something both ‘novel and useful,’ ” and used a standard IQ test and the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking for their study.)

People of average intelligence who are creative have more NAA than those in the high IQ group.  And whereas in the average IQ group NAA operated broadly across the brain’s frontal lobe, in the high IQ group, the NAA was more focused in very specific areas of the frontal lobe, Jung said.

“I’ve been speculating, and mind you it’s just speculating, that in the average intelligence group, you need to hit more nodes in your brain to hunt that novel and unique idea,” Jung said. “In the high IQ folks, and that’s really a small percent of the population, it seems that the ideas they generate may be more novel to begin with, and so the mind tends to rely more on its knowledge base.”

“The IQ is a very precise scale of behavior that’s over 100 years old,” Jung said. “It’s a reliable, precise measure of brain function, and a stable measure of brain capacity and problem solving. But it’s limited in its ability to measure things like creativity or personality.”

Measuring creativity, and comparing it to intelligence, is a much harder task, he said.

Jung aims to understand the biological aspects of creativity and its relationship with intelligence. His next paper looks at the neural cortex and studies which areas are thicker or thinner in more creative people.

“With intelligence, usually more neurons are better, but with creativity it’s this complexity of more in some areas and less in others,” Jung said.

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