The Creating Brain

The Neuroscience of Genius

Where does the unique originality we call “creativity” come from? Michelangelo was a stonecutter’s son, and Shakespeare was the son of a middle-class businessman. What causes some people to soar free of their limited lives and make astonishingly creative contributions?

In her elegant, fascinating tour of creativity and the brain, Nancy Andreasen, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa and the winner of the National Medal of Science, shows us that creativity is not the same as intelligence nor the same as skill. Rather, we discover, the essence of creativity is to shape the materials of life in new and unexpected ways.

Andreasen explores how the human brain achieves creative breakthroughs—in art, literature, music, and science—the role of patron or mentors, the possession of an omnivorous vision, the value of not having a “standard education,” and the question of “genius and insanity.”

The author shows is what extraordinary creators such as Mozart, Henri Poincaré, and Coleridge, said about creating and how they reflect special qualities of creative people and the creative process. She describes her fascinating interview with the playwright Neil Simon in which he discussed how his mind works. Andreasen’s studies of participants in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop suggest that creativity may be inherited and sometimes associated with mental disorders, through neither is necessary for creativity to flourish.

The author proposes that creativity can and should be encouraged and offers advice to nurture it in both children and adults.



Chapter 1: The Nature of Creativity: The Ingenious Human Brain

Chapter 2: In Search of Xanadu: Understanding the Creative Person and the Creative Process

Chapter 3: Reaching Xanadu: How Does the Brain Create?

Chapter 4: Genius and Insanity: Creativity and Brain Disease

Chapter 5: What Creates the Creative Brain?

Chapter 6: Building Better Brains: Creativity and Brain Plasticity




"Our leading authority on creativity reveals herself with this splendid book as one of the most valuably creative persons of our time."

-Kurt Vonnegut