Researchers Link Greater Creativity and Success to Higher Brain Integration

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Creativity may depend on greater brain integration, according to a new study published in Creativity Research Journal by Maharishi University brain researcher Fred Travis and University West quality management researcher Yvonne Lagrosen. The current study on Swedish product-development engineers builds on earlier research showing higher brain integration among world-class performers in different professions.

Dr. Frederick Travis, Director, Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition, Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa

It's a simple fact that some people stand out, and we're trying to tease out why. We hypothesized that something must be different about the way their brains work, and that's what we're finding.

What factors account for success? Why are some people more creative than others? Those who naturally think "outside the box" tend to come up with creative ideas and solutions to problems that lead to innovations.

Is it just a matter of nature — a person's genetic disposition, or nurture — the environment in which they were raised? Do long hours of practice improve or hinder performance? Is there something else in the mix we have yet to consider?

Creativity may depend on greater brain integration, according to a new study published in Creativity Research Journal (26:2, 239-243). Following up on earlier studies showing that world-class performers exhibit an integrated brain, researchers studied 21 product-development engineers in Sweden — a group that would be expected to have high levels of creativity.

The researchers assessed their level of creativity using standardized Torrance measures and found them to be in the 70th to 90th percentile. They also looked at their levels of brain integration, speed of processing information, speed of executive decision-making, and Sense-of-Coherence.

A canonical correlation analysis of these data yielded strong correlation between higher flexibility and originality in verbal and figural creativity tests and higher levels of brain integration, faster brain processing, faster speed of decision-making, and a sense of being in control of one's situation.

"It's a simple fact that some people stand out, and we're trying to tease out why," said Fred Travis, lead author of the study. "We hypothesized that something must be different about the way their brains work, and that's what we're finding."

Dr. Travis uses a measure he developed called a Brain Integration Scale. He uses EEG recording to assess frontal brain wave coherence (a measure of connectedness among the various areas of the brain) and alpha power (a measure of inner directedness of attention). He also assesses the brain's preparation response, which measures how efficiently the brain responds to a stimulus.

Brain Integration: The Inner Factor to Outer Success

In all of his studies so far, top-level performers consistently show higher levels of brain integration. Previous studies by Dr. Travis and colleagues have found that greater brain integration is present in world-class athletes, top managers, and professional musicians.

"While there's a common notion that 10,000 hours of practice is necessary for high achievement, some people put in long hours and do not excel," adds Dr. Travis. "This work and other work with my Norwegian collaborator, Harald Harung, and Yvonne Lagrosen suggest that brain integration may be the inner factor that leads to outer success."

According to Dr. Lagrosen, a coauthor of the current study, “Empirical findings highlight that creativity, in the form of flexibility and originality, is connected to whole brain functioning and psychological development.”

Flexibility and originality reflect the ability to see old situations in new ways leading to unique responses, i.e., to think “outside the box” and discover new solutions to old problems. "Since creativity is highly important for individual success,” she adds, “optimizing brain functioning should be a priority for every student.”

Transcendental Meditation Optimizes Brain Integration

Dr. Travis, who is on faculty at Maharishi University of Management, advocates Transcendental Meditation as a means of optimizing brain function. It has been found in random assignment studies to increase levels of brain integration.

"People who want to excel in any field should consider learning Transcendental Meditation," says Dr. Travis, "and see for themselves the effect of regular transcending on inner happiness and outer success."

About the Researchers

Dr. Frederick Travis is Director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, which specializes in Consciousness-Based Education.

Dr. Yvonne Lagrosen is Associate Professor in Quality Management, Department of Engineering Science at University West in Trollhättan, Sweden, which specializes in Work Integrated Learning. University West helped fund this research.

About Maharishi University of Management

Founded in 1971, Maharishi University of Management (MUM) offers Consciousness-Based℠ Education, a traditional academic curriculum enhanced with self-development programs like the Transcendental Meditation® technique. Students are encouraged to follow a more sustainable routine of study, socializing and rest without the typical college burnout. All aspects of campus life nourish the body and mind, including organic vegetarian meals served fresh daily. Located in Fairfield, Iowa, MUM is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in the arts, sciences, humanities, and business. Visitors Weekends are held throughout the year. For more information, call the Admissions Office at 800-369-6480 or visit

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Ken Chawkin
Maharishi University of Management
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