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Slower Nerve Traffic, More Creativity

Neuroscientist Rex Jung notes “Creativity is a complex concept; it’s not a single thing.”

That quote comes from a recent New York Times article, which comments that one of his studies “suggests that creativity prefers to take a slower, more meandering path than intelligence.”

“The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained.

“But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”

The article adds, “Although intelligence and skill are generally associated with the fast and efficient firing of neurons, subjects who tested high in creativity had thinner white matter and connecting axons that have the effect of slowing nerve traffic in the brain.

“This slowdown in the left frontal cortex, a region where emotional and cognitive abilities are integrated, Dr. Jung suggested, “might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty and more creativity.”

Neurologist Kenneth Heilman, author of the book Creativity and the Brain, said creativity not only involves coming up with something new, but also with shutting down the brain’s habitual response, or letting go of conventional solutions.

From Charting Creativity: Signposts of a Hazy Territory, By Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, May 7, 2010.

This all reminds me of studies on nervous system functioning of us highly sensitive people (HSP).

One article on the topic explains, “Sensory perception sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait characterized by sensitivity to internal and external stimuli, including social and emotional ones, is found in over one hundred other species…

“The sensitive type, always a minority, chooses to observe longer before acting, as if doing their exploring with their brains rather than their limbs…The sensitive’s strategy, sometimes called reactive or responsive, is better when danger is present, opportunities are similar and hard to choose between, or a clever approach is needed.”

From article Researchers Find Differences In How The Brains Of Some Individuals Process The World Around Them.

Elaine Aron, PhD is one of the primary experts on the trait, and author of a number of books including The Highly Sensitive Person.

She writes in an issue of her Comfort Zone newsletter that “HSPs are all creative by definition because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.”

A CNN article on her research [Ultra-sensitive? It’s in your brain, by Elizabeth Landau] reported that Dr. Aron’s group “has shown evidence in the brain that these people are more detail-oriented.

“Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brains of 18 participants. They found that people with sensory processing sensitivity tended to have more brain activity in the high-order visual processing regions, and in the right cerebellum, when detecting minor details of photographs presented to them…

“But the study showed that highly sensitive people do not quickly take in these details; in fact, they spend more time looking at them.”

From my post Better at noticing subtle details – on my Highly Sensitive site, which has many other articles and links about HSPs.

Another post on this topic: Highly Sensitive Personality and Creativity, by Lisa A. Riley, LMFT.

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Slower Nerve Traffic, More Creativity

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2011). Slower Nerve Traffic, More Creativity. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 23 Jun 2011
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