JAN 30, 2018 05:56 AM PST

Are Creative People Wired Differently?

Very often people are described as being creative or logical. Clearly, there is a range of skill sets in between those two descriptors, but research from Harvard University is looking at whether or not the brain of a "creative" is different than that of someone who is more objective and logical. Does the brain work differently when coming up with creative ideas than it does doing other tasks?
 
In many studies of cognitive ability and brain processing, the best way to see what's going on is a functional MRI scan (fMRI) These scans don't just show the size and structure of the brain, they show electrical activity in different parts of the brain, as it happens. Participants are asked to complete a cognitive puzzle or mental test while undergoing an MRI scan that is capturing the neural activity used in the task. In the study at Harvard, subjects were asked to come up with out of the ordinary uses for everyday objects that can be found almost anywhere. The ideas were then rated by others based on how creative or inventive the concept was. When the scans were analyzed, there was a correlation between a specific pattern of brain activity and how highly creative the ideas were rated. The suggestions that were deemed the most creative were offered by study participants who all had similar patterns in the neural networks.
 
Roger Beaty, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Psychology at Harvard and the first author of the study explained, "What this shows is that the creative brain is wired differently. 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."
 
The evidence in the study focused on three subnetworks in the brain that are involved in creativity. They are the default mode network, the salience network, and the executive control network. While the entire brain is involved in creativity, these three areas have specific roles. The default mode handles memory and stimulation, so this area is active in activities like brainstorming and quick thinking. The salience network is a hub of input from other regions of the brain and works to sort out which ideas can work and which can be disregarded. Finally, the executive control network keeps us focused and on task.
 
A long-held belief about neuroscience that this research shows is outdated is the concept of different sides of the brain being responsible for creativity and logic. Beaty summed it up, saying, "One thing I hope this study does is to dispel the myth of left versus right brain in creative thinking. This is a whole-brain endeavor." Take a look at the video below to learn more about how creativity is about different parts of the brain working together.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 22, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 22, 2019
Is Cheating Genetic?
Over 90% of Americans agree that cheating is morally wrong. Yet, despite this, around 21% of American men, and 10-15% of American women cheat. But what lea...
SEP 22, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
SEP 22, 2019
Compound Found in Wine May Treat Anxiety
A study published in the journal Neuropharmacology claims that a compound found in red wine could be used as therapeutic for treating anxiety and depressio...
SEP 22, 2019
Technology
SEP 22, 2019
Motorized prosthetic arm can sense touch, move with your thoughts
Picking up an egg without crushing it seems like an easy task for anyone—but for Keven Walgamott, who lost his left hand and part of his arm from a m...
SEP 22, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 22, 2019
The Genetic Reasons You're Addicted to Alcohol
Over the years, an increasing body of research has emerged looking at the genetic risk factors for alcoholism. Although some associations are inconclusive,...
SEP 22, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
SEP 22, 2019
Scientists Developed Magnetic Nanoparticles that can Remotely Modulate Neural Circuits
Currently, neuroscience researchers rely heavily on invasive procedures to stimulate and study the neural activity of animals. A team of MIT scientists has...
SEP 22, 2019
Technology
SEP 22, 2019
Online Brain Games Enable 'Cognitive Youth'
A recent study by researchers in the University of California, Irvine—have found that online brain game activities have a positive effect on extendin...
Loading Comments...