Jazz, Creativity, and the Brain


Neuroscientists have recently begun to examine the elusive nature of human creativity. Join Dr. Charles Limb, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, and jazz pianist Vijay Iyer as they discuss this fascinating new science and examine improvisational art forms such as jazz.


Dr. Aniruddh Patel, associate professor of psychology at Tufts University, talks about the use of music therapy to help people with Parkinson’s disease walk fluidly. For Parkinson’s patients, dopamine-producing cells in the brain die and no longer project to important parts of the brain. This leads to numerous motor deficits including tremors, shuffling gait, and a higher risk for falling. However, the auditory motor networks that connect movement with the beat of music are still active, even in Parkinson’s patients. Thus, music therapy may help Parkinson’s patients walk more fluidly because their movement becomes synchronized to the music.
Scott Suchman

As part of a research study, Dr. Charles Limb, Francis A. Sooy, MD Professor and Chief of Otology/Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, took brain scans of musician volunteers while they were playing an instrument. He found that when musicians are improvising, the prefrontal cortex of the brain shuts off in large part. This is the part of the brain involved in conscious self-monitoring, that sensors you when you’re about to make an error.

This page last reviewed on July 13, 2017