Neuroimaging predictors of creativity in healthy adults

Neuroimage. 2020 Feb 1:206:116292. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116292. Epub 2019 Oct 22.


Neuroimaging has revealed numerous neural predictors of individual differences in creativity; however, with most of these identified in only one study, sometimes involving very small samples, their reliability is uncertain. To contribute to a convergent cognitive neuroscience of creativity, we conducted a pre-registered conceptual replication and extension study in which we assessed previously reported predictors of creativity using a multimodal approach, incorporating volumetric, white matter, and functional connectivity neuroimaging data. We assessed sets of pre-registered predictors against prevailing measures of creativity, including visual and verbal tests of divergent thinking, everyday creative behaviour, and creative achievement. We then conducted whole-brain exploratory analyses. Greater creativity was broadly predicted by features of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and inferior parietal lobe (IPL), including both local grey matter and white matter predictors in the IFG, the superior longitudinal fasciculus that connects them, and IFG-IPL functional connectivity. As IFG and IPL are important nodes within executive control and default mode networks (DMN), respectively, this result supports the view that executive modulation of DMN activity optimizes creative ideation. Furthermore, white matter integrity of the basal ganglia was also a generalizable creativity predictor, and exploratory analyses revealed the anterior lobe of the cerebellum and the parahippocampal gyrus to both be reliable predictors of creativity across neuroimaging modalities. This pattern aligns with proposals ascribing roles of working and long-term memory to problem-solving and imagination. Overall, our findings help to consolidate some, but not all, neural correlates of individual differences that have been discussed in the cognitive neuroimaging of creativity, yielding a subset that appear particularly promising for focused future investigation.

Keywords: Creativity; Executive function; Individual differences; Memory; Neuroimaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Connectome*
  • Creativity*
  • Gray Matter
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / diagnostic imaging
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / physiology