Friday Fun Fact: How to Improve Your Improv

February 1, 2013  

My Monday Morning Movie had me in a hot tub discussing the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex’s (DLPFC) role in creativity.  Or more accurately stated – its role in killing it.

There is research that also proves that the DLPFC affects a related area: improvisation.

Research by Charles J. Limb and Allen R. Braun, says…

…We examined improvisation in professional jazz pianists using functional MRI… We found that improvisation (compared to production of over-learned musical sequences) was consistently characterized by…extensive deactivation of dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral orbital regions… accompanied by widespread activation of neocortical sensorimotor areas (that mediate the organization and execution of musical performance) as well as deactivation of limbic structures (that regulate motivation and emotional tone). This distributed neural pattern may provide a cognitive context that enables the emergence of spontaneous creative activity.

Ok, that quote is a bit cerebral. But it makes an important point…

When professional  musicians improvise, they automatically quiet their DLPFC.

I am a jazz sax player. I once recall stepping off the stage after a concert and having no recollection of the performance.  When I listened to the recording, I was blown away. During my improvisational solos, my fingers were blazing away at riffs I never thought I could play. In those moments, there was no thinking needed.

During other concerts where I remember “over-thinking,” the recordings proved only a mediocre performance.

I think it is fair to say that creativity is a close cousin to improvisation. This article is more evidence that the “hot tub principle” can improve your improv.

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  1. Engage Employees with Questions | Excellerant on February 8th, 2013 3:22 am

    [...] / 2013 / February / Engaging Minds Want to Know Engaging Minds Want to Know Stephen Shapiro wrote an excellent blog last week on Improv.  He talks about his “hot tub principle.”  Now you’ve got to read [...]