Brain networks of the imaginative mind: Dynamic functional connectivity of default and cognitive control networks relates to openness to experience

Hum Brain Mapp. 2018 Feb;39(2):811-821. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23884. Epub 2017 Nov 14.


Imagination and creative cognition are often associated with the brain's default network (DN). Recent evidence has also linked cognitive control systems to performance on tasks involving imagination and creativity, with a growing number of studies reporting functional interactions between cognitive control and DN regions. We sought to extend the emerging literature on brain dynamics supporting imagination by examining individual differences in large-scale network connectivity in relation to Openness to Experience, a personality trait typified by imagination and creativity. To this end, we obtained personality and resting-state fMRI data from two large samples of participants recruited from the United States and China, and we examined contributions of Openness to temporal shifts in default and cognitive control network interactions using multivariate structural equation modeling and dynamic functional network connectivity analysis. In Study 1, we found that Openness was related to the proportion of scan time (i.e., "dwell time") that participants spent in a brain state characterized by positive correlations among the default, executive, salience, and dorsal attention networks. Study 2 replicated and extended the effect of Openness on dwell time in a correlated brain state comparable to the state found in Study 1, and further demonstrated the robustness of this effect in latent variable models including fluid intelligence and other major personality factors. The findings suggest that Openness to Experience is associated with increased functional connectivity between default and cognitive control systems, a connectivity profile that may account for the enhanced imaginative and creative abilities of people high in Openness to Experience.

Keywords: brain dynamics; creativity; default network; imagination; individual differences; personality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Creativity*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Rest
  • Young Adult