For artists — and for any others who'd like to enrich their lives with creativity — one key question the study raised was, how do you suppress your inner critic so you can enter the creative flow space?
The scientific answer, like the punch line of that old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall, appears to be practice, practice, practice.
That's what another study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, discovered. Researchers found that the prefrontal cortex quiets down in direct proportion to an artist's level of expertise. In other words, the more you've mastered your craft, the more you can let go and soar.
That release of self-censorship and the accompanying activation of the medial prefrontal cortex, with its connection to personal memory, may also shed some light on the "darker side" of creative freedom (think of the so-called "tortured artist"). Difficult emotions are often part of the process.
"When you're an artist, a lot comes from your unconscious, and in your unconscious there can be a lot of pain," said Einfinger. "That's what takes guts."
Although he's an accomplished doctor, Limb's own personal experience as a musician also goes a long way toward explaining why art can be one the most fulfilling aspects of life.
"I find that I understood almost every human experience — love, pain, suffering, happiness, joy, ecstasy — better because of music," he said. "I never felt that anything came closer than music to beautifying and clarifying the world for me."