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Creativity and Your Brain

Travel into the amazing world of the creative brain.
Creativity and Your Brain is rated 3.4 out of 5 by 21.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Broad examination of the topic It would be difficult to find a lecturer more suitable to the topic. Indre Vishkontas is both a neuroscientist and a creative artist (opera) and can speak to both the sources of creativity in the brain and the practical aspects of being creative. As a science fiction author myself, I found the course very interesting.
Date published: 2023-07-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not what I was expecting This course is much more of a scientific nature than I had expected. While the professor knows her subject inside out, has a straightforward and understandable approach, and highlights the accomplishments of many creative people over the years, the course digs heavily into the actual workings of the brain. I really have no particular interest in such things as what the hippocampus or the pre-frontal cortex have to do with anything or the functions of the left versus right hemispheres. Every one of those 24 lectures explains how the different parts of the brain are being used for whatever subject she is tackling. What I had been hoping for was some insight into tapping into my creative side even more than I already do. I have been a paid writer for over a quarter of a century and have a strong following in my area of expertise (Canadian tax and business issues), so the creative side of writing is second nature to me. But in my retirement years, I'm now dabbling in pen and ink drawing which is an entirely new area of creativity for me. I had been hoping this course would unlock some new and creative ways of approaching this new endeavour, but unfortunately it does not.
Date published: 2023-01-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from not worth the time I reviewed earlier after lecture 4, I tried, I really tried to get past the lecture's presentation style and get some useful information.I could not.I have done possibly 100's of courses and simply cannot recall a more self absorbed presentation. I am a retired medical professional and there is a LOT of self absorption in academia!! If you want an excellent presentation of Behavior (creativity's a behavior, I think),go to the Dr. Sapolsky presentation, your time will be amply rewarded...
Date published: 2023-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another interesting learning opportunity! I have a personal interest in the research on memory, music, the aging brain, learning, and creativity. I really enjoyed the content of this course, especially Prof. Viskontas organization and delivery of the subject matter. She connected multiple ideas and insights for me across a variety of subject matter, especially in her discussion of deliberate practice and the role of creativity in learning. Thanks to the Great Courses for providing such learning opportunities!
Date published: 2022-12-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too personal I feel so "un"creative after the first two "lessons" mostly about her personal life and buzzwords that had absolutely no relevance.
Date published: 2022-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The subject, the content, most of all the lecturer I have done her other 3 courses and found them all excellent. This one was easily in the same league if not beyond it - superb in all regards!
Date published: 2022-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Creativity and Our World Indre Viskontas delivers a fascinating mosaic on developing creativity in our personal life and the community environment. Dr. Viskontas presentation style is smooth flowing, enjoyable and relaxing to observe and is very professional. Her previous lecture sets were similiarly well done. This course presents creativity from many diverse aspects, such as how the brain functions when in creative mode, the impact of drugs on the brain during create sessions, and creating a creative environment conducive to all individuals regardless of any physical or psychological differences. I found Lecture 22 of significant value as it discussed in depth the use beta blockers on body physiology and creativity. The professor also discusses mind altering and expanding drugs such as LSD, and the use of micro-dosing on creativity. This is a very interesting course. It is worth the time and money investment.
Date published: 2022-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An EXCELLENT DVD series This is an EXCELLENT series of highly interesting lectures. The lecturer's delivery is smooth, clear, highly knowledgeable ,and inviting for the student to learn more.
Date published: 2022-10-06
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Creativity is a skill, one which all of us can cultivate. This course takes you on a deep dive into the human creative brain, where you’ll learn about the synchronized brain activity that underlies creative thinking; key stages in the creative process; how to stimulate creative insight, imagination, and the flow state; the process of mastering a skill, the steps of design thinking, the rules of improvisation; and much more.


Indre Viskontas

The beauty of science is that with each question that is answered, many more questions are raised; each discovery helps us develop more refined queries about the world around us.


University of California, San Francisco

Indre Viskontas is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco, where she runs the Creative Brain Lab. She earned a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has published more than 50 original papers and chapters related to the neural basis of memory and creativity. A passionate science communicator, she has appeared on major TV and radio programs and hosts the popular science podcast Inquiring Minds as well as the podcast Cadence: What Music Tells Us about the Mind.

By This Professor

12 Essential Scientific Concepts
How Digital Technology Shapes Us
Creativity and Your Brain
Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience
Creativity and Your Brain


The Creative Life Begins in the Brain

01: The Creative Life Begins in the Brain

Begin to examine the nature of creativity and what neuroscience can tell us about it. Look at traits that are associated with creative people and consider four distinct stages of creativity. Note the differences between artistic and scientific creativity. Then, take a first look at the structure of the brain and its organization. Study the creative brain’s major networks and their functions.

24 min
Beyond the Right-Brain Creativity Myth

02: Beyond the Right-Brain Creativity Myth

Explore current knowledge of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, taking stock of both early and more recent scientific thinking on the specialization of the hemispheres. Note how different aspects of creativity rely on different hemispheres, and how the left hemisphere is involved in key creative functions. Also, grasp how our early environment shapes brain development.

28 min
Creativity Is a Process

03: Creativity Is a Process

Assess Graham Wallas’s influential model of the creative process, breaking creativity into four fundamental stages. Contrast this with the work of Arne Dietrich, proposing four basic types of creativity, using examples of each of Dietrich’s types within science and art. Enjoy a groundbreaking series of interviews with creative people, and consider what they reveal about the creative process.

24 min
Evaluating the Creative Product

04: Evaluating the Creative Product

Can we define what is creative? Consider two basic features of a creative product and how meaning is both subjective and domain-specific. Investigate how our brains process information and assign meaning, and, in art, how the way we look determines what we see. Grasp how we endow objects with value, based in what we know about the creator of the product and the circumstances of its creation.

26 min
Who Is the Creative Person?

05: Who Is the Creative Person?

Look at three ways to identify especially creative people. First, examine personality traits that creative people may share, such as openness to new experiences, extraversion, and abstract or semantic thinking. Study two types of creative thinking and how they appear to correlate with scientists and artists. Finally, consider possible neurological and genetic components of creativity.

22 min
The “Mad Genius” Myth of Mental Illness

06: The “Mad Genius” Myth of Mental Illness

Investigate notions linking mental health issues with creativity. Review studies of creatives, looking at factors such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and findings indicating that certain psychological conditions may be beneficial in creative work. Then, consider the reverse: whether creative work fosters mental aberrations. Grasp the dangers of romanticizing mental illness in creatives.

26 min
Finding Your Motivation for Creative Work

07: Finding Your Motivation for Creative Work

This lecture delves into the neurological reward system, which shapes our actions and experiences. Observe how the brain’s neural networks support both motivational behaviors and learning when seeking rewards. Examine the effects of external rewards and stimuli on creative behavior, and how factors such as a sense of autonomy, competence, and self-control increase internal motivation.

25 min
When Creatives Confront Depression

08: When Creatives Confront Depression

Here, look at three artists who suffered from depression, yet, created some of the great creative works of the 20th century. Begin with the brilliant poet Sylvia Plath, followed by painter Georgia O’Keeffe, and innovative dancer Martha Graham. In each case, examine the relationship between depression and artistic work, and consider the evidence that each creative’s work contributed to their depression, rather than the reverse.

22 min
Free Your Brain with Spontaneous Creativity

09: Free Your Brain with Spontaneous Creativity

Findings from neuroimaging studies of musicians who improvise indicate that experienced improvisers can “turn down” activity in brain regions involving self-evaluation, to stay fully in the moment when creating music. Learn the basic “rules” of improvisation and see how they can be applied in many life situations, such as team building at companies or coping with Alzheimer’s disease.

28 min
Behind the Mystical Aha Moment

10: Behind the Mystical Aha Moment

Sudden insight (the “Aha” moment”) is a core feature of creativity. Review studies of brain activity during insightful problem-solving and examine the roles of the left and right brain hemispheres, as well as the subject’s mood. See how we might make insight more likely by letting the mind wander and follow tangents. Learn about technology that stimulates the brain, and its use in enhancing creativity.

22 min
Unlocking Your Imaginative Brain

11: Unlocking Your Imaginative Brain

Consider the brain’s capacity to both remember past events and to visually imagine the future. Consider conditions in which people’s ability to do both can be compromised. Learn about the hippocampus, and other brain regions involved in imagination. Take account of how the activity of mind-wandering can allow imagination to blossom, and review studies using mind-wandering to boost creativity.

24 min
The Creative Path to Skill Mastery

12: The Creative Path to Skill Mastery

For skill mastery in art, sports, or any domain, grasp the necessity of using only the physical and mental resources that are necessary for the task. Note how skill mastery involves moving from conscious thinking to automating the actions of the skill. Map the stages of mastering a skill, three essential levels of practice, and the integration of the process that makes the skill second nature.

25 min
Getting Into the Creative Flow

13: Getting Into the Creative Flow

The flow state, or being “in the zone,” is another key feature of creative work. Look into the nature of flow, what it feels like, and identify nine elements that underlie the flow state. Learn about what happens in the brain when we’re in flow, and two hypotheses that help us understand it. Review studies on the flow state in basketball, and what they tell us about this creative condition.

23 min
The Brain Science of Beauty

14: The Brain Science of Beauty

The field of neuroaesthetics studies the brain basis of aesthetic appreciation. Investigate what neuroaesthetics tells us about how we experience beauty and perceptions that we value. As a case in point, study the measurable response of the “chills,” or “goosebumps,” and the roles of the neurotransmitter dopamine and the brain’s rewards system in processing the pleasure and meaning of beauty.

24 min
Can Brain Degeneration Unleash Creativity?

15: Can Brain Degeneration Unleash Creativity?

Delve into the phenomenon of paradoxical facilitation, where enhancement of creativity or a skill follows upon degenerative conditions of the brain. Study cases of affected patients who have developed remarkable skills as visual artists or musicians. Observe how the condition of semantic dementia has this effect and seems to give patients a different way of seeing—a key aspect of creativity.

26 min
Beethoven, Dyslexia, and Creativity

16: Beethoven, Dyslexia, and Creativity

Examine evidence that Beethoven is likely to have been dyslexic, and the ways in which that condition may have fed his creative genius. Look at studies indicating that people with dyslexia are more emotionally reactive and show higher-than-average, nonverbal intelligence. Consider how living with dyslexia may promote compensating development in the right brain and thinking outside the box.

26 min
The Creative Environment

17: The Creative Environment

Take account of the ways in which physical spaces and work culture impact creativity. Note, throughout history, how creative geniuses have tended to cluster together, in places such as ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, and modern Silicon Valley. Look at factors of environment, such as the free exchange of ideas, human interaction and collaboration, and diversity, that foster creativity.

25 min
Design Thinking Helps Structure Creativity

18: Design Thinking Helps Structure Creativity

Design thinking is an ideology used to give practical form to the creative process. Discover the five steps of design thinking, which begin with a focus on the end user. Focusing on idea generation, grasp how design thinking can help us move out of being “stuck” in the process of developing creative ideas. Witness an example of how the design process operates in the work of architect Frank Gehry.

27 min
Creativity Thrives on Difference

19: Creativity Thrives on Difference

In human life, as in nature, the meeting of ecosystems or cultures sparks creative diversity. See how this manifests in fashion design and science, where studies show that work that represents cultural interaction performs better or is rated as more creative. Note that trends toward respecting workers with non-typical brain function show significant benefits for workplace creativity.

24 min
Get More out of Group Creativity

20: Get More out of Group Creativity

Identify pitfalls that are common to creativity in group settings, and guidelines that may allow for an ideal collaborative group. Then, observe how effective musical ensembles can teach us a lot about group creativity. By examining how musicians perform in sync, grasp the roles of eye and body coordination, listening and reacting, cooperation and synergy, and what motivates the creative endeavor.

30 min
Overcome Creative Anxiety

21: Overcome Creative Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can pose challenging problems for creative work. Learn about the brain physiology of acute stress, which can get in the way of creative performance, and how beta blockers can be used to mitigate the effects of performance anxiety. Track the harmful effects of chronic stress, how scientists are now studying creativity-specific anxiety, and what may help to lessen its effects.

24 min
Can Drugs Open Up the Creative Brain?

22: Can Drugs Open Up the Creative Brain?

Survey evidence regarding the impacts of psychoactive substances on creativity. Begin with studies evaluating whether coffee helps idea generation and alcohol enhances creativity. Then, look at the use of cannabis, and finally psychedelics, comparing popular notions about their use with experimental data. See what conclusions we can make about these different substances as aids in creative work.

25 min
Being Creative in a World Not Built for You

23: Being Creative in a World Not Built for You

As useful examples of creative thinking, consider daily challenges faced by people with disabilities, from navigating public spaces and shopping to living with medical conditions and artificial limbs, and see how they use their creativity to invent practical solutions. Note, also, how the brain can adapt to sensory deficits, as in the case of people with vision loss who learn to use echolocation.

23 min
Using Technology as a Creative Aid

24: Using Technology as a Creative Aid

Conclude the course with a look at the expanding industry of cognitive enhancement using technological aids. Learn about transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), why people think it might boost creativity, and what clinical studies show. Finally, take account of how artificial intelligence, which can compose music, create art, or build buildings virtually, can aid human-driven creativity.

27 min