Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Back in the 1940s, historian Rosamund Harding noted the creative process of famous musicians and writers involves habits of motion. Twain paced and dictated, Dickens walked and thought, Goethe composed on horseback and Mozart in the back of a carriage. Harding wrote “that state of mind is most favourable to the birth of ideas.” Recent research suggests that diverting our attention could unlock our creativity. First, forget the whole idea that your right hemisphere is creative and the left is logical. When you “use your imagination” you use lots of different structures across your entire brain. Research suggests the interaction of three brain networks influences your creative thinking. The Executive Attention Network depends on your working memory and is active when you’re really focused on a task, like hard calculus homework. The Imagination Network creates mental simulations about future events and is active when you consider other people’s thoughts or perspectives. And the Salience Network monitors your internal consciousness and events that occur outside your body, so it can direct your attention to what’s most important. When all these networks are active, it can actually diminish creative thinking. Reducing the activity of Executive Attention Network-just a little-can boost our creativity. In one study a group of children with ADHD-Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder- and a group without were given a series of tasks to test their working memory. Researchers found the children without ADHD had more activity in their Attention Network and less in their Imagination Network. Those with ADHD couldn’t deactivate their Imagination Network to focus on the task and overall, they had slower response times. Children and adults with ADHD have trouble focusing their attention, but again and again research shows they’re more creative because their Imagination Network is really active. And focused attention has been shown to limit spontaneity. In another study jazz musicians gave an improvised performance while they were inside a fMRI machine. When they spontaneously improvised, brain structures involved in the Imagination Network were more active. And when they played an over-learned musical sequence, like a scale, the brain structures of their Attention Network were more active--you know, their working memory. So to get your creative juices flowing, be spontaneous! And if you’re not into jazz, try singing in the shower. And be distracted! Like Dickens and Goethe before you, pacing or riding a horse could see your mind come along and wander too. And if you haven't already, subscribe to BrainCraft! I have a new brainy episode out every Thursday.