The increased connectivity in brain regions among naturally creative people leads to higher creative potential in the real world.
Scientists studying brain scans of people who were asked to come up with inventive uses for everyday objects found a specific pattern of connectivity that correlated with the most creative responses. Researchers were then able to use that pattern to predict how creative other people’s responses would be based on their connections in this network. The study is described in a January 15 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“What this shows is that the creative brain is wired differently,” said Roger Beaty, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Psychology and the first author of the study. “People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that don’t typically work together. We also used predictive modeling to show we could predict, with some degree of accuracy, how creative people’s ideas were (based on brain scans) that had already been published.” Beaty and colleagues reanalyzed brain data from previous studies and found that, by simply measuring the strength of connections in these peoples’ brain networks, they could estimate how original their ideas would be.
While the data showed that regions across the brain were involved in creative thought, Beaty said the evidence pointed to three subnetworks — the default mode network, the salience network and the executive control network — that appear to play key roles in creative thought.
The default mode network, he said, is involved in memory and mental simulation, so the theory is that it plays an important role in processes like mind-wandering, imagination, and spontaneous thinking.
Ultimately, Beaty said he hopes the study dispels some myths about creativity and where it comes from.
“One thing I hope this study does is dispel the myth of left versus right brain in creative thinking,” he said. “This is a whole-brain endeavor.”
It’s also not clear that this can’t be modified with some kind of training. “It’s not something where you have it or you don’t,” he added. “Creativity is complex, and we’re only scratching the surface here, so there’s much more work that’s needed.”