The Neuroscience of Free-Style Rapping

The creative process is a fascinating thing.  Some artists spend years perfecting a single work, be it a book, painting, composition, or performance.  Others engage in a free-flowing, on-the-spot creation process on the spot.  Both are valid means of creation, but as you can probably imagine, they are each very different.

Now, with fMRI technology, we can actually see how they are different on a neurologic level.  Check out this fascinating study from Scientific Reports.  The researchers in this study sought to find out what areas of the brain are activated when free-style rappers engage in their craft.  They had participants try rapping to a beat in two ways: a rehearsed rap, and a free-style (created on the spot rap).  Each group rapped to the same beat, and were hooked to fMRI machines to measure brain activity.  They then compared the results to see how the on-the-spot creation process happens.

One of the most interesting discoveries was the way brain activation changed across the course of the 8-bar improvisation.  At the onset of the improvisation, areas of the brain responsible for motivation, emotion and language showed higher activation, and as the 8-bar beat came to an end, systems in the right hemisphere showed higher activation levels.

The study concluded that improvisation creation is a highly complex brain activity.  With all this complex action going on in our heads, is it any wonder why music is so engaging?

Ready to fire up your neurons?  Get signed up for music therapy with The George Center!