We propose the world’s first longitudinal study on the neural substrates of aesthetic imagination and creativity. Collaborating with artists from the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University, we plan to follow a course on jazz improvisation, compared against a randomized control group. In both groups we will compare behavioral tests on jazz improvisation, auditory imagery, divergent thinking, and control tasks of intelligence and working memory, as well as brain electrical potential recordings and structural and functional brain MRI before and after training. Through this project we seek to understand the source, the contexts, and the learning trajectories of aesthetic imagination and creativity.
Psyche Loui is an Assistant Professor in Psychology and in Neuroscience and Behavior at Wesleyan University. She directs the MIND (Music, Imaging, and Neural Dynamics) Lab at Wesleyan. Dr. Loui received her B.S. in Psychology and Music from Duke University in 2003 and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley in 2007. She then was Instructor in Neurology at the Harvard Medical School, with a hospital appointment in the Department of Neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). Her research aims to understand and use the network of brain functions that enable music perception, cognition, and production. Ongoing projects in her lab tackle problems in auditory perception, auditory-motor interaction, and emotion and cognition, using tools from psychophysics and cognitive neuroscience as appropriate. Dr. Loui is a recipient of Young Investigator Awards from the Templeton Foundation for Positive Neuroscience and the European Society for Cognition of Music and has held grants to date from the Grammy Foundation, Templeton Foundation, and NIH. Her research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Neuroscience, Current Biology, and Music Perception, and her work has been featured in the BBC, WGBH, Boston Globe, New York Times, MSNBC, Science Daily, and other news sources.