Creating Brain: The Neuroscience of Genius

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Michelangelo was raised in a rustic village by a family of modest means. Shakespeare's father was a middle-class businessman. Abraham Lincoln came from a family of itinerant farmers. Yet all these men broke free from their limited circumstances and achieved brilliant careers as creative artists and leaders. How such extraordinary creativity develops in the human brain is the subject of renowned psychiatrist Nancy Andreasen's The Creating Brain.
Andreasen explains here how the brain produces creative breakthroughs in art, literature, and science, revealing that creativity is not the same thing as intelligence. She scrutinizes the complex factors involved in the development of creativity, including the role of patrons and mentors, "non-standard" educations, and the possession of an "omnivorous" vision. A fascinating interview with acclaimed playwright Neil Simon sheds further light on the creative process.The relationship between genius and insanity also plays an important role in Andreasen's examination. Drawing on her studies of writers in the Iowa Writers' Workshop and other scientific evidence, Andreasen asserts that while creativity may sometimes be linked to mental disorders and may be partially due to familial/genetic factors, neither is inevitable nor needed for creativity to flourish.

Scientist's increasing understanding of the brain's plasticity suggests even more possibilities for nurturing the creative drive, and Andreasen looks ahead to exciting implications for child-rearing and education. The Creating Brain presents an inspiring vision for a future where everyone—not just artists or writers—can fulfill their creative capacity.

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Editorial Reviews

Kurt Vonnegut
“Our leading authority on creativity reveals herself with this splendid book as one of the most valuably creative persons of our time.”—
Kurt Vonnegut
David Morrell
"I've been a novelist for 37 years and suddenly I understand myself better. Nancy Andreasen's The Creating Brain is a fascinating journey in to the nature and secrets of the creative brain. The sections on Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are amazing, and the concluding exercises could be life changing."—David Morrell, New York Times bestselling author of The Brotherhood of the Rose and Creepers
Howard Gardner
“Drawing on her expertise as a scientist, physician, and scholar of literature, Nancy Andreasen gives a clear, readable, synoptic account of current knowledge in human creativity.”—Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Education and Cognition, Harvard Graduate School of Education
V.S. Ramachandran
"Neuroscientists, until recently, shied away from the big questions—such as 'what is consciousness,' 'what is abstract thinking,' or (the topic of this book) 'what is creativity'—as being empirically unapproachable. Nancy Andreasen's book comes as a welcome antidote to this inherent conservatism and shows us how creativity can be approached scientifically. In a market flooded with 'new age' books on creativity, Dr. Andreasen's meticulously researched contribution comes as a breath of fresh air."—V.S. Ramachandran, MD, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California-San Diego, and author of A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness
Floyd E. Bloom
"This splendid, quick read should be a compulsory assignment for those students of the humanities who think themselves irrevocably bored with biology of any sort, including what they will find to be the fascinating links to the human brain's most powerful cultural tool, the capacity for extraordinary creativity. . . . I highly recommend it."—Floyd Bloom, professor emeritus of neuropharmacology, The Scripps Research Institute and former editor-in-chief of Science
Nature - Mark Lythgoe
"Andreasen writes with clarity and ease, interspersing personal and scientific opinion. She makes wonderful connections between the arts and sciences, which surely spring from her background in literature. And she provides a succinct overview of diverse fields of investigation, as well as providing a perspective that reaches beyond the usual approaches to understanding the relationship between creativity and the brain."—Nature

Wall Street Journal - Christopher F. Chabris
"Ahead of the curve. . . . Ms. Andreasen is lucid in arguing that with creativity—as with most human traits—a strict opposition between nature and nurture is too simplistic. . . . Ms. Andreasen's book describes the first steps in what should be a long and fascinating effort to understand true creative genius."—Christopher F. Chabris, Wall Street Journal
American Journal of Psychiatry
"As if she were speaking with you at dinner, she explores the earliest record of human creativity . . . The text cleverly uses the autobiographical account of a series of renowned artists, scientists, and writers to illustrate their special insights into their own creative process. . . . Grandmotherly advice from Dr. Andreasen, down to the choice of bedtime reading to the children, is a warm and unique end to a book on the neurobiology of creativity."—American Journal of Psychiatry
American Journal of Psychiatry - Sandra Patterson
"Readers familiar with Dr. Andreasen's previous works. . . will recognize her personal, conversational narrative and the breadth of her knowledge."—Sandra Patterson, American Journal of Psychiatry
Washington Post Book World - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
"This is fascinating reading
Publishers Weekly
How does one define extraordinary creativity? Is creative genius a product of nature or nurture? And can those of us who are less creative enhance the creative capacity in ourselves and others? Andreasen (The Broken Brain), editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, brings neuroscience to bear in providing insight and expert analysis of the connections between extraordinary creativity, mental illness, intelligence and the social environment. The complex subject matter is punctuated with intriguing research, such as Andreasen's Iowa Writer's Workshop study examining the relationship between creativity and psychopathology; a study of London taxi drivers showing that their need for extensive memory of the city leads to a larger hippocampus; and a study of members of symphony orchestras that found increased gray matter in Broca's area . These studies lead Andreasen to conclude that "extraordinary creativity" is the result of neural processes that "differ qualitatively as well as quantitatively" from those of other people. The author's passion and admiration for creative genius and the arts-not surprising given her Ph.D. in Renaissance English literature-is evidenced in her exploration of such great minds as Mozart, da Vinci, Michelangelo and Tchaikovsky. And quotations from introspective accounts by mathematician Henri Poincare, chemist Friedrich Kekule, Stephen Spender and Neil Simon vividly describe mental activities that are anything but ordinary. Andreasen leaves us with hope that the potential exists to enhance the creative capacity in our children and in ourselves. Photos and illus. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932594072
  • Publisher: Dana Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2005
  • Series: Guides to Major Disciplines Ser.
  • Pages: 197
  • Sales rank: 1,558,848
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy C. Andreasen is the Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry and Director of the Mental Health Clinical Research Center at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and an adjunct professor of psychiatry and neurology and director of the MIND Institute at the University of New Mexico. She has served for twelve years as the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry and has authored or edited twelve books, including The Broken Brain and Brave New Brain. She was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Clinton in 2000.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1.  The Nature of Creativity:  The Ingenious Human Brain
2.  In Search of Xanadu:  Understanding the Creating Person and the Creative Process
3.  Reaching Xanadu:  How Does the Brain Create?
4.  Genius and Insanity:  Creativity and Brain Disease
5.  What Creates the Creative Brain
6.  Building Better Brains:  Creativity and Brain Plasticity

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