Brain networks for visual creativity: a functional connectivity study of planning a visual artwork

Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 19:6:39185. doi: 10.1038/srep39185.


Throughout recorded history, and across cultures, humans have made visual art. In recent years, the neural bases of creativity, including artistic creativity, have become a topic of interest. In this study we investigated the neural bases of the visual creative process with both professional artists and a group of control participants. We tested the idea that creativity (planning an artwork) would influence the functional connectivity between regions involved in the default mode network (DMN), implicated in divergent thinking and generating novel ideas, and the executive control network (EN), implicated in evaluating and selecting ideas. We measured functional connectivity with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) during three different conditions: rest, visual imagery of the alphabet and planning an artwork to be executed immediately after the scanning session. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found stronger connectivity between areas of the DMN and EN during the creative task, and this difference was enhanced in professional artists. These findings suggest that creativity involves an expert balance of two brain networks typically viewed as being in opposition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Art*
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cognition
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male