Sing your brain bigger
A view from Tony Cullingham

Sing your brain bigger

Watford Creative Course's leader suggests a new way for creatives to work together.

Dave Trott used to say: "The brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the bigger it gets."

And he was right. Developments in brain-scanning equipment have recently proved Dave's maxim correct.

Here is one such example.

Gus Halwani, co-founder of the neurophysiology department at Harvard University, conducted a study that looked at the pathways between the left and right side of the brain.

The pathways – or tracts, as they are called – send electrical signals across the brain between the left and right hemispheres.

Halwani and his team looked at the main tract: the arcuate fasciculus (AF). They measured the size of the AF tube in three groups of people: non-musicians, musicians and vocalists.

They found that the non-musicians had the smallest AF. They also found the musicians had a bigger AF tract. 

There is more activity between the left and right side of the brain when you learn to play an instrument. It's like sending your brain to a gym.

That's really not surprising.

What did surprise the team, however, was the group with the largest AF tract and bigger density of fibres in the tract were the singers. 

Singing, it seems, is like sending your brain to a gym with a hard-assed personal trainer. The team found that the act of singing worked the AF the hardest. There was more activity between the two sides of the brain. 

Apparently, the left side of the brain (words) works harder with the right side (sound) when you sing. 

Unfortunately, the study didn't look at frontmen who sing and play an instrument. (I guess Prince probably had the biggest AF tract on the planet.)

What does this all mean to creatives working in advertising?

We know that art school-trained creatives predominantly use their right hemisphere for images, intuition and visual stimulus. Copywriters predominantly use their left hemisphere for logic, rationale and words.

The brainstorming that happens between a creative team is primarily an interaction between the left hemisphere of the writer and the right hemisphere of the art director. 

Neither creative is growing their AF tract as much as they could be if they brainstormed alone. Their own individual tracts are underused in the conceptualising process. They are bouncing off each other's different hemispheres rather than engaging their individual brain.

So creatives should work solo in the first instance.

If you are a writer, you should conceptualise more around the visual possibilities of your thoughts. You should draw, doodle and paint your thoughts. Visualise your headlines and your straplines. Draw images that replace the dialogue in radio and TV scripts. 

If you are an art director, you should do the opposite. Try to write your ideas. And while you are doing this, take off your headphones and sing.

When you come together with your creative partner and your respective ideas, you shouldn't discuss them. Oh, no.

You should sing them. 

Sing to your partner. And get your partner to sing their ideas to you. 

Why not sing them to the creative director? And then sing them to the client. In fact, all client presentations should be in the form of a musical.

Any creative-led agency could do one simple thing to help the brain power of their creatives. They should set up a lunchtime choir.

Whether it results in better ads, however, is open to question. Try it and see.

Tony Cullingham is leader of the Watford Creative Course