USC study attempts to pinpoint where in the brain creativity comes from

Children finger paint.
Children finger paint.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

If you’re the creative type, you’ve probably heard people tell you that it comes from the “right” side of your brain.

However, new research has begun to suggest that that may not be the whole story.

A study out of USC has found that the left hemisphere of your brain, the part we associate with logic and math, also appears to play a critical role in creative thinking.

Researchers conducted two experiments involving architecture students. Participants were hooked up to brain scanners and told to look at three shapes: a circle, an 8 and a C. They were then told to visualize new images that could be made from the shapes.

Next, they were told to piece the shapes together, but in a way that specifically made either a rectangle or square, something researchers consider a question of "spatial processing," not creativity.

MRI scans showed that the brain’s right hemisphere did, in fact, handle the creative task. But the left side lit up too — and it lit up more in creative efforts than during non-creative ones.

Researchers say their next step will be to study how the brain generates different types of creativity, such as painting, singing and acting.