Creativity and Your Brain

Creativity and Your Brain coverCreativity and Your Brain
Indre Viskontas, Ph.D.
University of San Francisco; San Francisco Conservatory of Music
$49.95 when on sale at The Great Courses
if it’s not on sale check back: the sale price will come around again
or stream the course with a Wondrium subscription

I’m always interested in the subject of creativity, so when I saw this course publicized I had to take advantage of my Wondrium subscription to watch it.

The course covers a lot of material in its twenty-four lectures. There is a lot of material about brain research and what part of the brain handles what functions, complete with graphics that show where in the brain a particular activity is handled. Professor Viskontas early on dispels the myth that the left brain is strictly analytical while the right brain is strictly creative. But in later lectures she makes clear that the right brain does play a role in creative thinking and the left in analytical thinking; It’s just not as clear-cut as popular culture would have us believe.

Viskontas discusses issues such as dyslexia (apparently Beethoven was dyslexic), brain damage, and conditions such as autism. She is sensitive about placing labels on people with non-normative brain functions and explains why it is often better to talk about “a person with autism,” rather than “an autistic.” At the same time, she acknowledges that sometimes a person with autism is comfortable with the adjective “autistic” because it accurately denotes how their brain functions.

The lecture on drug use and creativity was interesting because of its balance. While Viskontas admits that sometimes drugs (including caffeine) used in a certain way can enhance creativity, on balance chemical stimulants rarely do a lot for creativity.

The most interesting part of this series is the professor herself, Indre Viskontas. She has a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles and is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco, where she runs the Creative Brain Lab. But she is also an accomplished professional musician. She has played starring roles in professional opera productions, has directed opera, and has coached vocalists. I can’t imagine a more accomplished person to present this course.

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