Listening to jazz musicians improvise, how the piano player’s chords toy with the sax player’s runs and the standup bass player’s beats, it may seem like their music-making process is simply magic. But research of jazz musicians’ brain activity as they improvise is helping shed light on the neuroscience behind creativity, and it turns out creating that magic is not as serendipitous a process as we might think.
“I started looking at jazz musicians playing the blues as a way to understand how the creative brain emerges from a neuroscience perspective,” said Charles Limb, associate professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at John’s Hopkins University.
Limb, a jazz musician and musci lover and his team designed a plastic keyboard that jazz musicians could both play and hear while they were inside an MRI machine. Limb asked the musicians to play a memorized piece of music, then improvise with another musician in the control room. Limb captured images of their brains as they played.
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