Scientists Identified Brain Network That Drives Creativity

A 2018 Harvard study about the robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identified a specific pattern of brain connectivity that is associated with creativity. The study, found that people who are more creative have stronger connections between certain brain regions. These regions are involved in memory, imagination, and decision-making.

"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.

Beaty said that the findings provided new insights into how the brain works during creative thought. "We've known for a while that creativity is a complex process that involves many different brain regions," Beaty said. "But this study is the first to show that there is a specific pattern of connectivity that is associated with creativity."

The study involved 163 college students who were challenged to come up with creative uses for everyday objects (known as divergent thinking). The researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the participants' brains while they were thinking about these tasks.

The results showed that people who were more creative had stronger connections between, the executive control network. the salience network, and the default mode network. The default mode network is involved in mind-wandering, imagination, and spontaneous thinking. The salience network is involved in detecting important information, both in the environment and internally. The executive control network is involved in decision-making and task-switching.

The researchers believe these three brain networks work together to help people come up with creative ideas. The default mode network allows people to think freely and come up with new ideas. The salience network helps people to focus on the most important ideas and to discard those that are not useful. The executive control network helps people make decisions and carry out their plans.

The study's findings could affect how we teach and assess creativity. Beaty said that the findings suggest that we should encourage students to engage in activities that promote creativity, such as brainstorming, mind-wandering, and playing with ideas. He also said that we should assess creativity in a way that considers the different ways people think creatively.

"Creativity is a complex process," Beaty said. "It's not just about coming up with new ideas. It's also about being able to think flexibly, to make connections between different ideas, and to solve problems in new and innovative ways."

The study's findings are just a starting point; more research is needed to understand how the brain works during creative thought. However, the findings provide new insights into the nature of creativity and could lead to new ways to promote and assess creativity in the classroom and in the workplace.

When asked when the testing used in this study could be done on younger students – including elementary school – Beaty replied, “that was one of the biggest questions that came from this.” The ability to identify children who are “wired differently” could significantly impact how schools and parents approach their education, and behavior patterns that are characteristics of creatives.

The study's findings are also interesting in light of the recent debate about whether creativity is a gift or a skill. Some people believe that creativity is something people are born with, while others believe it can be learned and developed. The study's findings suggest that there may be some truth to both sides of the argument. While it is true that some people may be more naturally creative than others, it is also clear that creativity can be learned and developed through practice and experience.

The study's findings are also encouraging for people who want to boost their creativity. The study suggests that people can do many things to increase their creativity, such as engaging in activities that promote mind-wandering, playing with ideas, and making connections between different ideas. By following these tips, people may be able to tap into their creative potential and come up with new and innovative ideas.