One of the most important neural systems at work during the creative process is the default network (called the imagination network by Kaufman).This is what the brain does when it’s not engaged with the outside world (e.g. daydreaming). It was discovered by several:
- Hans Berger (inventor of the EEG) in the 1920s discovered that electrical ‘oscillations’ didn’t stop when subjects were resting.
- In the 1950s Louis Sokoloff noticed brain metabolism didn’t change between resting state and when solving difficult maths problems.
- In 1970 David Ingvar noticed that blood flow to the front part of the brain increased when someone was resting.
- Raichle in the 1990s, while undertaking experiments using fMRI to investigate rudiments of visual perception, noticed lots of activity between experiments when subjects were ‘idle’ in the MRI machine and entertaining themselves or daydreaming.
The default mode network is engaged most when we are doing things that require little or no conscious attention such as driving on a highway or a tedious task and Dave Birss oin ‘How to Get Great Ideas’ (pp 40-44) describes the network as the state the brain is in when not focused on a task. So sitting with out feet up staring blankly into the middle distance is not slacking off it’s activating our Default network – wider associations and new possibilities. The brain is very busy during the default mode network with a great deal of communication between front and back parts of the brain. The prefrontal folds firing in sync with posterior cingulate, medial temporal lobe and precuneus (sorry about the anatomical terms). These areas don’t normally interact. When we daydream they begin to work closely together.« Back to Glossary Index