The neuroscience of creativity (and yes, right brain/left brain is mostly bullshit)

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(and yes, right brain/left brain is mostly bullshit)

Shit, That excuse has gotten me all the way into my 60’s, what the fuck do I do now?


The truth is even stranger.

The brain’s right hemisphere is not a separate organ whose workings can be regarded in isolation from that of the left hemisphere in most human beings.

There are people who have had the two halves of their brain disconnected from each other (can’t remember the procedure name) and the results are super bizarre.

For example, if you show an apple to only the left eye of one of these people and ask them what they just saw, they won’t be able to tell you but if you ask them to draw it, they won’t have any problem with that. Now show a banana to the right eye and they can tell you what they saw but won’t be able to draw it. (I probably have the left/right stuff mixed up, but you get the idea).

Each half ends up with it’s own “consciousness” and experiences things in different ways.


Great big however: Those results are amazing, but they are describing a traumatized brain. And inconsistent. And over-hyped.

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I bet this would still be true if you cut the brain in half on any axis.


Maybe it’s not a right and left thing but I know my brain can function on different levels simultaneously. I work in comics. I can draw or do photoshop work and make visual aesthetic decisions and listen to an audiobook or have a conversation at the same time. But I can’t do any sort of writing, whether it be actual dialogue or even just plotting a sequence of events with those sorts of distractions. There definitely seems to be a part of my brain that can run on autopilot. I guess for a non artist it might be an activity like driving (without complicated navigation) or mowing the lawn.


Now that I think about it, I think “creativity” was always the wrong word. A lot of what we think of as creativity actually involves complex problem solving and logical thinking. Especially writing and conceptualizing. I’d seperate the processes more along the lines of intuition and automatic action vs logic… maybe. Some of those early modern artists possibly trying to tap into the former, but most artists rely heavily on logical thinking at least in the pre-rendering conceptual stage. At a certain point in making art you get to stages that are kind of along the lines of painting a house. Then you can kinda turn your logical brain off and let your intuition guide you. I’m not talking scientifically at all. Just personal anecdotal experience.


What is they just…
… well, you know.

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Did you see this post by Neuroskeptic, passing on a report of more inter-hemisphere communication than was originally thought?


The logic seemed to run “Well, verbal skills are definitely localised in one hemisphere… and speech is linear, one word at a time… THEREFORE the other hemisphere must specialise in non-linear, global / holistic new-age cognition!”

All that hemispheric-specialisation neurobabble did tell us a lot about how people think, and about various forms of stupidity, just not in the way that the neurobabblers intended.

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I’m game!

Most likely not. The brain is specialized such that the right side controls the left side of the body. Also, speech is specialized usually in the left hemisphere (not always) which is why you get the strange effects of one side of the brain being able to name an object and the other not. The two hemispheres can work independently when the fibre bundles joining them are cut (they are only connected in one or two places in the brain). Cutting the brain apart on another axis other than separating the hemispheres would be more traumatic due to cutting through fibre bundles that work within hemispheres, thus interfering with important data association areas (i.e. stopping integration of information to form a full picture of the world and the appropriate response to it). This would create huge damage depending where you did it. For example, you can cut the frontal lobes off from the rest of the brain and you get frontal lobe syndrome which will destroy your life (this happens from trauma, including stroke. One of my patients had both frontal lobes destroyed by a massive stroke. His life and that of his wife were pretty much ruined).


A corpus callosotomy (, the severing of the corpus callosum which connects the brain hemispheres.

Roger Zelazny wrote a short story about a man who was kidnapped by some bad people who performed a callosotomy on him in order to turn him into an assassin who would be undetectable to mind readers.

I knew nothing about brain when I read that story (not that I know anything about it now), and that story, “No Award”, I believe, blew my mind (sorry, no pun intended).

I prefer the term “lateral thinking”

broke: left brain / right brain

woke: cortical homunculus

Oddly enough, “Blessing in Disguise” by Herbie Brennan (in a 1976 Analog, can’t be arsed remembering which issue) had an almost identical plot.

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When I was young it was ‘known’ that you stopped growing new brain cells before you were twenty. In hindsight, I don’t know what evidence there can have been for this - other than “I remember being young so the same cells must be there.” Weird. Science gets there ventually, but it doesn’t always take the shortest path.

The brain has two halves with a relatively small join. This join does not have a huge amount of electrical activity. There is a delay getting information from one side to the other, as demonstrated by the Stroop effect. In this respect, the brain seems like two networked computers: any heavy computing task is best in one side or the other, rather than shared between the two.

expand. the imagination precedes hallucination

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If you read ANALOG long enough, you will start to see common tropes reappear over and over again. I both envy and pity Trevor Quachri (current editor), because he has to see PAST the trope and discover what makes a particular “recording people’s dreams” or "communication problems with aliens" story special or that adds to the idea in some new way.

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