Association of creative achievement with cognitive flexibility by a combined voxel-based morphometry and resting-state functional connectivity study

Neuroimage. 2014 Nov 15;102 Pt 2:474-83. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.08.008. Epub 2014 Aug 12.


Although researchers generally concur that creativity involves the production of novel and useful products, the neural basis of creativity remains elusive due to the complexity of the cognitive processes involved. Recent studies have shown that highly creative individuals displayed more cognitive flexibility. However, direct evidence supporting the relationship between creativity and cognitive flexibility has rarely been investigated using both structural and functional neuroimaging techniques. We used a combined voxel-based morphometry and resting-state functional connectivity (rsFC) analysis to investigate the relationship between individual creativity ability assessed by the creative achievement questionnaire (CAQ), and regional gray matter volume (GMV), as well as intrinsic functional connectivity. Results showed that CAQ scores negatively correlated with GMV in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the bilateral dorsal ACC (dACC) extending to supplementary motor area, but positively correlated with GMV in the bilateral superior frontal gyrus and ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Further functional connectivity analysis revealed that higher creative achievement was inversely associated with the strength of rsFC between the dACC and medial superior frontal gyrus (mSFG), right middle frontal gyrus, and left orbito-frontal insula. Moreover, the association between the dACC-mSFG connectivity and CAQ scores was mediated by cognitive flexibility, assessed by a task-switching paradigm. These findings indicate that individual differences in creative achievement are associated with both brain structure and corresponding intrinsic functional connectivity involved in cognitive flexibility and deliberate creative processing. Furthermore, dACC-mSFG connectivity may affect creative achievement through its impact on cognitive flexibility.

Keywords: Cognitive flexibility; Creative achievement; Gray matter volume; dACC–mSFG connectivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Rest
  • Young Adult