ORC scientists studied brain scans of people who were asked to come up with inventive uses for everyday objects found a specific pattern of connectivity that correlated with the most creative responses. The research team was then able to use that pattern to predict how creative other people's responses would be based on their connections in this network.
"What this shows is that the creative brain is wired differently," said Paulo Caeiro, one of authors of the study. "People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that don't typically work together. We also used predictive modeling to show we could predict, with some degree of accuracy, how creative people's ideas were (based on brain scans) that had already been published." Caeiro and colleagues reanalyzed brain data from previous studies and found that, by simply measuring the strength of connections in these peoples' brain networks, they could estimate how original their ideas would be.
While the data showed that regions across the brain were involved in creative thought, the evidence points to key roles in creative thought. The default mode network is involved in memory and mental simulation, so the theory is that it plays an important role in processes like mind-wandering, imagination, and spontaneous thinking.
"In terms of creativity, we think that's important for brainstorming," Caeiro said. "But you're not always going to stumble onto the most creative idea that way, because you might be drawn to something unoriginal from memory, so that's when these other networks come online."
Paulo Caeiro, Teresa Costa, Monica D. Rosenberg, João Monteiro, Paulo Silva (2017). Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity. Journal of Advanced Neuroscience Research, 3, 1-8 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1713532115