People's ability to think creatively is a primary means of technological and cultural progress, yet the neural architecture of the highly creative brain remains largely undefined. Here, we employed a recently developed method in functional brain imaging analysis-connectome-based predictive modeling-to identify a brain network associated with high-creative ability, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data acquired from 163 participants engaged in a classic divergent thinking task. At the behavioral level, we found a strong correlation between creative thinking ability and self-reported creative behavior and accomplishment in the arts and sciences (r = 0.54). At the neural level, we found a pattern of functional brain connectivity related to high-creative thinking ability consisting of frontal and parietal regions within default, salience, and executive brain systems. In a leave-one-out cross-validation analysis, we show that this neural model can reliably predict the creative quality of ideas generated by novel participants within the sample. Furthermore, in a series of external validation analyses using data from two independent task fMRI samples and a large task-free resting-state fMRI sample, we demonstrate robust prediction of individual creative thinking ability from the same pattern of brain connectivity. The findings thus reveal a whole-brain network associated with high-creative ability comprised of cortical hubs within default, salience, and executive systems-intrinsic functional networks that tend to work in opposition-suggesting that highly creative people are characterized by the ability to simultaneously engage these large-scale brain networks.
Keywords: connectome; creativity; divergent thinking; fMRI.