Creative people are wired to see the world differently than others, Harvard scientists say.
Researchers studying 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.
They were 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 Roger Beaty, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University in the US.
“People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that do not typically work together,” said Beaty, first author of the study published in the journal PNAS.
“We also used predictive modelling 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,” he said.
Beaty and colleagues reanalysed 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, Beaty said the evidence pointed to three subnetworks - the default mode network, the salience network and the executive control network - that appear to play key roles in creative thought.
The default mode network, he said, 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 is important for brainstorming,” Beaty said.
“But you are not always going to stumble onto the most creative idea that way, because you might be drawn to something unoriginal from memory, so that is when these other networks come online,” he said.
The salience network detects important information, both in the environment and internally.
When it comes to creativity, researchers believe it may be responsible for sorting through the ideas that emerge from the default mode network.
The executive control network works to help people keep their focus on useful ideas while discarding those that are not working, Beaty said....