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  • Writer's pictureChrysikou Lab

Differences in brain activity patterns during creative idea generation

between eminent and non-eminent thinkers

Evangelia G. Chrysikou, Constanza Jacial, David B. Yaden, Wessel van Dam,

Scott Barry Kaufman, Christopher J. Conklin,Nancy A. Wintering, Rebecca E. Abraham,

Rex E. Jung , & Andrew B. Newberg


An influential model of the neural mechanisms of creative thought suggests that creativity is manifested in the joint contributions of the Default Mode Network (DMN; a set of regions in the medial PFC, lateral and medial parietal cortex, and the medial temporal lobes) and the executive networks within the dorsolateral PFC. Several empirical reports have offered support for this model by showing that complex interactions between these brain systems account for individual differences in creative performance. The present study examined whether the engagement of these regions in idea generation is modulated by one’s eminence in a creativity-related field. Twenty (n ¼ 20) healthy eminent creators from diverse fields of expertise and a ‘smart’ comparison group of sixteen (n ¼ 16) age- and education-matched non-eminent thinkers were administered a creative generation task (an adaptation of the Alternative Uses Task) and a control perceptual task, while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The participants’ verbal responses were recorded through a noise-canceling microphone and were later coded for fluency and accuracy. Behavioral and fMRI analyses revealed commonalities between groups, but also distinct patterns of activation in default mode and executive brain regions between the eminent and the non-eminent participants during creative thinking. We interpret these findings in the context of the well-documented contributions of these regions in the generation of creative ideas as modulated, in this study, by participants’ creative eminence.

NeuroImage 220 (2020) 117011

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