Does creativity wither with age? Not in the legal field, cognition prof says

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In the fields of math, science and lyric poetry, large creative breakthroughs are more likely to occur in younger individuals, according to Harvard cognition and education professor Howard Gardner.

But in fields like like law and psychoanalysis, “you need a much longer lead time, and so your best work is likely to occur in the latter years,” Gardner tells the Washington Post in a story reprinted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Scientists and mathematicians excel at younger ages because the brain’s frontal lobe is still building a protective sheath around axons in the brain, which allows for more precision and focus, the story says. The process is known as myelinization.

When people are in their 40s, however, demyelinization starts to occur. University of New Mexico assistant neurosurgery professor Rex Jung says the result is less-efficient connectivity and a greater flow of ideas, rather than just one great idea. “You have lots of data at your hands, and you have … fewer brakes on your frontal inhibitors, and you’re able to put things together in more novel and useful ways,” he tells the newspaper.

Hat tip to Pat’s Papers.

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