Listening to jazz musicians improvise, how the piano player’s chords toy with the sax player’s runs and the standup bass player’s beats, it may seem like their music-making process is simply magic. But research of jazz musicians’ brain activity as they improvise is helping shed light on the neuroscience behind creativity, and it turns out creating that magic is not as serendipitous a process as we might think. When musicians go to an improvisation, the brain switches, and the lateral prefrontal lobes responsible for conscious self monitoring became less engaged. “Musicians were turning off the self-censoring in the brain so they could generate novel ideas without restrictions,” he said. Interestingly, the improvising brain activates many of the same brain centers as language, reinforcing the idea that the back and forth of improvisation between musicians is akin to its own language.
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