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Educator Resources

Class Discussion
Establish Prior Knowledge

Ask students what they know about jazz. Discuss what jazz improvisation is and how it differs from other types of music. Tell students that the Snapshot they are about to see is about new research that shows what areas of the brain become active when jazz musicians improvise.


Have students view the Snapshot and read the synopsis. Use the following questions to guide discussion.

1. What did researchers hope to accomplish with this experiment?

2. How was the experiment set up?

3. Some areas of the brain were active when the jazz musicians played memorized pieces. What do these areas control?

4. Other areas of the brain were active when the jazz musicians improvised. What do these areas of the brain control?

5. What areas of the brain were “shut off” when the musicians improvised?


  • What conclusions did scientists draw from the data they collected?


Students who wish to learn more about human creativity and music can visit this website at the American Museum of Natural History: