Healthy Aging Alters the Functional Connectivity of Creative Cognition in the Default Mode Network and Cerebellar Network

Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Feb 18;13:607988. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2021.607988. eCollection 2021.


Creativity is a higher-order neurocognitive process that produces unusual and unique thoughts. Behavioral and neuroimaging studies of younger adults have revealed that creative performance is the product of dynamic and spontaneous processes involving multiple cognitive functions and interactions between large-scale brain networks, including the default mode network (DMN), fronto-parietal executive control network (ECN), and salience network (SN). In this resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI) study, group independent component analysis (group-ICA) and resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) measures were applied to examine whether and how various functional connected networks of the creative brain, particularly the default-executive and cerebro-cerebellar networks, are altered with advancing age. The group-ICA approach identified 11 major brain networks across age groups that reflected age-invariant resting-state networks. Compared with older adults, younger adults exhibited more specific and widespread dorsal network and sensorimotor network connectivity within and between the DMN, fronto-parietal ECN, and visual, auditory, and cerebellar networks associated with creativity. This outcome suggests age-specific changes in the functional connected network, particularly in the default-executive and cerebro-cerebellar networks. Our connectivity data further elucidate the critical roles of the cerebellum and cerebro-cerebellar connectivity in creativity in older adults. Furthermore, our findings provide evidence supporting the default-executive coupling hypothesis of aging and novel insights into the interactions of cerebro-cerebellar networks with creative cognition in older adults, which suggest alterations in the cognitive processes of the creative aging brain.

Keywords: cognitive aging; creative cognition; functional connectivity; group independent component analysis; resting-state fMRI.