Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Scanning Rappers
01 December 2012

Scanning Rappers

What do we know about our most creative moments? Most people would agree that musical improvisation requires a strong theoretical foundation. However, at the level of brains, there’s still a lot we don’t know about how the process is facilitated. Researchers recently attempted to explore this question by comparing the act of freestyle rap with rehearsed musical performance. Subjects carried out these respective activities while being scanned. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans allowed the team to generate 3D representations of brains, pictured. Highlighted brain regions show where activity was significantly higher (yellow) and lower (blue) during the act of improvisation. The left hemisphere (shown top left, from outside) shows most activation during the artistic act. The researchers conclude that to improvise, the brain uses regions that guide behaviour without conscious attention, through cingulate pathways, which are known to be involved with emotion formation.

Written by Brona McVittie

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