This Is Your Brain On Writing

This Is Your Brain on Writing

JUNE 20, 2014

Carl Zimmer

A novelist scrawling away in a notebook in seclusion may not seem to have much in common with an NBA player doing a reverse layup on a basketball court before a screaming crowd. But if you could peer inside their heads, you might see some striking similarities in how their brains were churning.

That’s one of the implications of new research on the neuroscience of creative writing. For the first time, neuroscientists have used fMRI scanners to track the brain activity of both experienced and novice writers as they sat down — or, in this case, lay down — to turn out a piece of fiction.

The researchers, led by Martin Lotze of the University of Greifswald in Germany, observed a broad network of regions in the brain working together as people produced their stories. But there were notable differences between the two groups of subjects. The inner workings of the professionally trained writers in the bunch, the scientists argue, showed some similarities to people who are skilled at other complex actions, like music or sports.

Haiku Conversation: Elizabeth Searle Lamb and Miriam Sagan


A new little book from Miriam’s Well, in which I respond to Elizabeth’s haiku with my own.

dreaming the dream
that is not a dream moonlight
in the dreamcatcher


moonlight on snow crust
dark trunks of trees
New Year’s dream


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