Thursday, April 07, 2005

Theta Waves and Creativity

I've been reading about creativity and brain waves. Pre-adolescents have an abundance of theta waves, which we know are associated with creative thinking. Theta waves are associated with fresh perceptions and wild ideas. This may be why children are so open to bizarre and zany ideas - their brains are wired to be open to them.

At puberty, the brain starts to change. At birth and all through childhood, the brain has a ton of neurons but at the time of puberty, the brain "prunes" some of the connections that haven't been used a lot. They die off and others become the patterns that we maintain throughout life. It's interesting to consider that this may be why things that appeal to us in childhood still do in adulthood - perhaps those connections survive this pruning.

It's also why it's so important to give children time to play and repeat tasks and learn. Unlike other species, humans have to learn so much of what we do. Creativity and curiousity seem natural companions for this process.

After puberty, we have many fewer theta waves in our brains - those waves linked to creativity. Edison apparently had a trick for waking himself from the state of just going to sleep so he could write down anything that had occured to him during this critical, theta-wave rich, time. He would nap with his hands full of ball bearings, resting on the arms of his armchair. As he relaxed and went to sleep he would release the ball bearings. They would drop into the pie plates he had conveniently placed below his hands and wake him up. He would immediately write down notes on what had occured to him in those moments.

I'm sure I've mentioned here before that I have a very weird sleep pattern - very odd - always have, my whole life. I don't seem to need as much sleep as other people and I wake up many times during the night. I always have. I'm also known to be a little bizarre. When I read this it made me wonder if all the multiple times I wake up and go to sleep increases the time my brain is producing theta waves and if there's a connection.

In adults, theta waves are much more rare. The one time we have a large amount of them is in that time between sleep and waking - when we are just falling asleep.


Karen Winters said...

So they are associated with hypnogogic imagery, maybe?

Patsy Terrell said...

That state of "twilight zone" between wake and sleep is called hypnogogic. So, obviously, theta waves are occuring during this state so they're associated with it closely. But I don't know which is the chicken and which is the egg. :) The brain continues to fascinate me.