Richard G. Petty, MD

Creativity and the Brain

In 1826, the great German physicist and physician Hermann von Helmholtz proposed that there are four stages to creativity: incubation, illumination, preparation and verification. There have been many attempts to modify this four-stage model, and we now think that the ability to make new connections is a key factor in creative innovation – a composite of incubation and illumination that can be best defined as an ability to understand and express new order and inter-relationships. As the South African Poet, Novelist and Editor, William Plomer put it, “Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” Professor Kenneth Heilman from the University of Florida has presented some very interesting ideas about the mechanisms of creativity. He points out that creative innovation requires intelligence, specific knowledge and special skills and an ability to develop alternative solutions: what we call “divergent thinking,” the ability to break away from received wisdom. Each of these four factors will not be enough on their own. I have known many people who have announced that they have developed a new theory of the universe, but who did not have the knowledge or skills to be able to do anything with the idea, and to test whether it was sound.

There has recently been further analysis of a region of the brain of Albert Einstein. This region is of particular interest because Einstein is known to have had a form of dyslexia and this area is involved in language. In Chapter One of my most recent book, I pointed out that there is a great deal of interest in “glial cells” that were long thought to be no more than supporting cells, but have now been discovered to have key roles in some neuronal activity. Einstein had a significantly higher number of glial cells than controls, and it may be these cells that were responsible for his ability to make connections and to excel in spatial rather than linguistic reasoning.

The other point that I would like to make is this: there is a stereotype that creative people are undisciplined rebels. In fact nothing could be further form the truth: what they are actually doing is creating more order in the universe, by making new connections and creating new structures.

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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