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Neuroscience of Creativity$
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Oshin Vartanian, Adam S. Bristol, and James C. Kaufman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019583

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019583.001.0001

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How Insight Emerges in a Distributed, Content-Addressable Memory

How Insight Emerges in a Distributed, Content-Addressable Memory

(p.19) 2 How Insight Emerges in a Distributed, Content-Addressable Memory
Neuroscience of Creativity

Liane Gabora

Apara Ranjan

The MIT Press

Creativity paradoxically involves studying how someone pulls out of their brain something that was never put into it, something new and useful, or appropriate to the task at hand. Even if we determine which areas of the brain are active and how these areas interact during creative thought, we will not have explained how the brain generates useful novelty. However, since the representational capacity of neurons emerges at a level that is higher than that of individual neurons, the inner workings of neurons is too low a level to explain creativity. Thus, this chapter focuses at a level midway between gross brain regions and neurons. Since creativity involves combining concepts from different domains, or seeing ideas from new perspectives, we examine the neural mechanisms underlying the representation of concepts and ideas, and show how novelty arises through activation of new regions of overlap between distributed aggregates of neurons. Neurons that would be active during associative (or divergent) thought, but not during analytic (or convergent) thought, are referred to as ‘neurds’. We explain why neurds are key to understanding the neural mechanisms underlying creativity, and show with examples how creativity benefits from the capacity to shift between these modes of thought.

Keywords:   Analytic thought, Associative memory, Associative thought, Content-addressable memory, Contextual focus, Convergent thought, Distributed representation, Divergent thought, Insight, Neurds

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