50 years

Mind and Brain

Thursday 26 April 2012, 6:00pm
The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London

Human creativity and culture

Creativity and creative language are uniquely human, we hold creativity in high esteem and it is equated with individual genius and achievement. The creativity of a society is essential to our evaluation of other cultures, and to the future of our own.

Some of the key questions include:

  • Creativity, art and computers: what do we mean by creativity, can machines be creative?
  • Creativity and consciousness: Does creativity depend on conscious processes, unconsciousness processes or their interaction?
  • Creativity and synaesthesia: does seeing the world differently lead to creative insights?

This conversation will explore creativity and human identity, examine the creativity of people affected by mental illness, neurological disease and unusual experiences and ask what we know - or can know - of the brain mechanisms that produce creative behaviour.


Dr Mark Lythgoe is Director of the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging at University College London, where he develops novel imaging techniques for investigating brain and cardiac function.


Professor Ernest Edmonds is a multi-disciplinary artist, Professor of Computation and Creative Media at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia and Professor of Computational Art at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. He is an international expert on human-computer interaction and was a pioneer in the development of practice-based PhD programmes. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. 

Professor Chris Frith FRS FBA is Emeritus Professor in Neuropsychology at University College London (UCL) and Niels Bohr Visiting Professor at the University of Aarhus. He helped found the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL.

Carol Steen is a world-renowned artist who lives in New York City. She is a synaesthete who sees letters and numbers as colours and sublimely captures her combined senses in her paintings.

Sussex Respondents:

Professor Margaret A. Boden is Research Professor of Cognitive Science, where she helped develop the world's first academic programme in AI and cognitive science. She holds degrees in medical sciences, philosophy, and psychology, and integrates these with AI in her research (translated into twenty languages). Her books include The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms, and Creativity and Art: Three Roads to Surprise.

Dr Anil Seth is a Reader in Informatics and Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness at the University of Sussex. He is also Chair of the 2012 meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, to be held in Brighton in July. His research focuses on unravelling the neural mechanisms underlying conscious experience by integrating mathematics, computational modelling, neuroscience, and psychology.

Dr Jamie Ward is a Reader in Psychology at the University of Sussex and one of the world’s leading experts in synaesthesia. His research explores how differences in brain connectivity, such as that found in synaesthesia, can be linked to differences in the way that the world is consciously experienced and the effects that might have on cognitive functions such as creativity and artistic expression.