Researchers have pinpointed the part of the brain responsible for imagination.
The long-sought-after answer lies in "the brain's 'mental workspace' -- that consciously manipulates images, symbols, ideas and theories and gives humans the laser-like mental focus needed to solve complex problems and come up with new ideas," a Dartmouth College press release reported.
"Our findings move us closer to understanding how the organization of our brains sets us apart from other species and provides such a rich internal playground for us to think freely and creatively," lead author Alex Schlegel , a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said. "Understanding these differences will give us insight into where human creativity comes from and possibly allow us to recreate those same creative processes in machines."
Researchers have theorized that a "mental workspace" exists in the brain, but were unable to find proof.
In the study, the researchers asked 15 participants to imagine "specific abstract visual shapes and then to mentally combine them into new more complex figures or to mentally dismantle them into their separate parts." An example of this could be a dog with the head of a cat; most people have never seen this image but are able to create it in their imaginations effortlessly.
"When asked what his scientific thought process looked like, Einstein would say that he'd take an image in his mind and play around with it and manipulate it, looking at it from different angles -- combining and breaking things apart," Schlegel told the Huffington Post.
The research team analyzed the study subject's brain activity with an MRI while they were imagining the objects. The team noticed the activity took place in the cortical and subcortical neural network that covered a large area of the brain, the press release reported.
The area was similar to the "mental workspace" that researchers had come up with in the past.