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Spitting Rhymes and Firing Synapses: Freestyle Rap Battles Could Boost Student Creativity

The creativity that freestyle requires exercises your brain in unique ways.

Last Wednesday night Eminem's semi-autobiographical movie 8 Mile was on television and of course the best scene is at the end when "Rabbit" is engaged in an epic freestyle rap battle. The seminal question that emerges when you have no freestyle skills—guilty as charged—is how do freestyle aficianados come up with such creative rhymes so quickly? It turns out that the energy that goes into freestyling fires up the synapses in your brain in pretty unique ways.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health asked a dozen rappers to spit rhymes—one minute of memorized lines and one minute freestyling—into a fMRI machine, and then they analyzed the brain activity between the two. Dr. Allen Braun, a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health told NBC News they found a "stronger coupling between motivation, action, language, and emotion," in the brain scans from the freestylers. According to the study, which is published in the latest edition of the journal Scientific Reports, the results show that creative behaviors "occur in two stages: an improvisatory phase characterized by generation of novel material and a phase in which this material is re-evaluated and revised."

What does that have to do with kids in schools? Well, much of the way kids learn these days is rooted in the memorization of facts that are to be regurgitated onto a test. Without the freestyling experience, kids simply aren't being mentally stimulated in the ways they should be. Creativity suffers as a result.

Imagine classrooms where if instead of memorizing vocabulary words for multiple choice tests where words have to be matched with the definition, the word had to be used in a freestyle competition? Okay, that's not exactly freestyle, but kids sure would certainly be more excited to learn the words than they are now. The point is that we need more of that kind of creative energy injected into our classrooms. Whether it comes through freestyle rapping or another art form, let's get those creative synapses firing.

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