On the spot, as great jazz performers expertly improvise solo passages, they make immediate decisions about which musical phrases to invent and to play. Researchers, like
authors Mónica López-González and Dana Foundation grantee Charles J. Limb, are now using brain imaging to study the neural underpinnings of spontaneous artistic creativity, from jazz riffs to freestyle rap. So far, they have found that brain areas deactivated during improvisation are also at rest during dreaming and meditation, while activated areas include those controlling language and sensorimotor skills. Even with relatively few completed studies, researchers have concluded that musical creativity clearly cannot be tied to just one brain area or process.