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High Sensitivity, Creativity and Brain Differences

Steam Train Photo Puzzle

Highly sensitive people are considered by many to be exceptionally creative as a group.

Psychologist Elaine Aron even declares “I know ALL HSPs are creative, by definition.”

The personality trait (technically referred to as sensory processing sensitivity, SPS) may show up in curious ways for some of us who are highly sensitive.

For example, in the 1980’s, Arthur B. Lintgen, M.D. could look at the groove patterns in vinyl records and correctly identify the piece of music. – From post: Sensory processing sensitivity: smelling books and reading vinyl record grooves.

Research by Elaine Aron and a number of her colleagues indicates there are brain differences that may explain these kinds of subtle perceptions.

A press release about a research paper explains:

“Visual images are transformed into thoughts about those images when the brain associates the images with input from other senses, as well as with emotional reactions.  

“This requires some attention, which is often motivated by emotions and is especially critical for noticing small changes.  The investigators had 16 participants compare a photograph of a visual scene with a preceding scene, and asked them to indicate with a button press whether or not the scene had changed.  

“Scenes differed in whether the changes were obvious or subtle, and in how quickly they were presented.  Sensitive persons looked at the scenes that had the subtle differences for a longer time than did non-sensitive persons, and showed significantly greater activation in brain areas involved in associating visual input with other input to the brain and with visual attention (i.e., right claustrum; left occipito-temporal; bilateral temporal, medial, and posterior parietal regions).

“These areas are not simply used for vision itself, but for a deeper processing of input.”

From Researchers Find Differences In How The Brains Of Some Individuals Process The World Around Them, Stony Brook Univ.

The research paper concluded that highly sensitive people “process sensory information more elaborately than individuals low in SPS, that is, with a greater attention to detail and with more attention to subtleties. Such ‘more elaborate processing’ is, we postulate, related to a greater degree of integration of various components of the neurological processes underlying visual processing.”

[Jagiellowicz, J., Xu, X., Aron, A., Aron, E., Cao, G., Feng, T., & Weng, X. (2010), The trait of sensory processing sensitivity and neural responses to changes in visual scenes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 6, 38-47.] (PDF)

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The Steam Train Photo Puzzle at the top (from site: Spot The Difference) has four differences between the two images – but they may not be so easy to spot.

Elaine Aron quote at top from post: Elaine Aron on the trait of high sensitivity.


High Sensitivity, Creativity and Brain Differences

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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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2015). High Sensitivity, Creativity and Brain Differences. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Jan 2015
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