Frontopolar activity and connectivity support dynamic conscious augmentation of creative state

Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 Mar;36(3):923-34. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22676. Epub 2014 Nov 13.


No ability is more valued in the modern innovation-fueled economy than thinking creatively on demand, and the "thinking cap" capacity to augment state creativity (i.e., to try and succeed at thinking more creatively) is of broad importance for education and a rich mental life. Although brain-based creativity research has focused on static individual differences in trait creativity, less is known about changes in creative state within an individual. How does the brain augment state creativity when creative thinking is required? Can augmented creative state be consciously engaged and disengaged dynamically across time? Using a novel "thin slice" creativity paradigm in 55 fMRI participants performing verb-generation, we successfully cued large, conscious, short-duration increases in state creativity, indexed quantitatively by a measure of semantic distance derived via latent semantic analysis. A region of left frontopolar cortex, previously associated with creative integration of semantic information, exhibited increased activity and functional connectivity to anterior cingulate gyrus and right frontopolar cortex during cued augmentation of state creativity. Individual differences in the extent of increased activity in this region predicted individual differences in the extent to which participants were able to successfully augment state creative performance after accounting for trait creativity and intelligence.

Keywords: fMRI; frontopolar cortex; semantic distance; state creativity; verb generation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Semantics
  • Thinking / physiology*
  • Young Adult