By Brett Spiegel
Freestyle rapping increases activity in areas of the brain linked to creativity and decreases it in areas associated with regulation and supervision, according to a new study from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders at the National Institutes of Health.
An integral part of hip-hop culture, freestyle rap draws upon improvisation, spontaneity, rhythm, and rhyme to communicate lyrics and blend musical beats with language.
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Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to watch activity in the brains of freestyle rappers, researchers found that unfocused, improvised music vocals were responsible for higher activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, an area associated with human creativity.
Rapper Jay-Z seems to intuitively understand what the researchers are finding: "It fits my style to rhyme with high stakes riding on every word and to fill every pause with pressure and possibility. And maybe I just have ADD, but I also like my rhymes to stay loose enough to follow whatever ideas hijack my train of thought, just like I like my mind to stay loose enough to absorb everything around me,” he wrote in his book Decoded.
The scientists examined the brains of 12 rappers while they improvised lyrics and while they performed previously rehearsed lyrics. They found that during freestyle rapping, brain activity increased in areas responsible for motivation, action, language, emotion, and motor skills. However, activity decreased in brain regions known to regulate supervision and monitoring.
The researchers think that this combination of activation in certain areas and slowdown in others may account for the original lyrics and rhythms generated by freestyle rappers. These changes, the researchers said in their report in Nature, "appear to have widespread functional consequences, affecting motivation, emotion, language as well as motor control, and may generalize to other forms of spontaneous creative behavior."
"Freestyle Rap Unlocks Creativity In The Brain" originally appeared on Everyday Health.