Brains in Jazz musicians

Jazz musicians are renowned for their improvisations but did you know the link between jazz improvisation and brain activity?

Back in the late 2000s, a pair of Johns Hopkins and American government scientists have discovered that when jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition, and turn on those that let self-expression flow.

The joint research, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, and musician volunteers from the Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute, sheds light on the creative improvisation that artists and non-artists use in everyday life, the investigators say.

It appears, they conclude, that jazz musicians create their unique improvised riffs by turning off inhibition and turning up creativity. “When jazz musicians improvise, they often play with eyes closed in a distinctive, personal style that transcends traditional rules of melody and rhythm,” says Charles Limb, one of the doctors. “It’s a remarkable frame of mind during which, all of a sudden, the musician is generating music that has never been heard, thought, practiced or played before. What comes out is completely spontaneous.” Maybe this is the mental state of classical musicians in India too as classical music is heavily based on improvisation just like jazz.