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PLoS One. 2010 Mar 22;5(3):e9818. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009818.

White matter integrity, creativity, and psychopathology: disentangling constructs with diffusion tensor imaging.

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  • 1Mind Research Network, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America.


That creativity and psychopathology are somehow linked remains a popular but controversial idea in neuroscience research. Brain regions implicated in both psychosis-proneness and creative cognition include frontal projection zones and association fibers. In normal subjects, we have previously demonstrated that a composite measure of divergent thinking (DT) ability exhibited significant inverse relationships in frontal lobe areas with both cortical thickness and metabolite concentration of N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA). These findings support the idea that creativity may reside upon a continuum with psychopathology. Here we examine whether white matter integrity, assessed by Fractional Anisotropy (FA), is related to two measures of creativity (Divergent Thinking and Openness to Experience). Based on previous findings, we hypothesize inverse correlations within fronto-striatal circuits. Seventy-two healthy, young adult (18-29 years) subjects were scanned on a 3 Tesla scanner with Diffusion Tensor Imaging. DT measures were scored by four raters (alpha = .81) using the Consensual Assessment Technique, from which a composite creativity index (CCI) was derived. We found that the CCI was significantly inversely related to FA within the left inferior frontal white matter (t = 5.36, p = .01), and Openness was inversely related to FA within the right inferior frontal white matter (t = 4.61, p = .04). These findings demonstrate an apparent overlap in specific white matter architecture underlying the normal variance of divergent thinking, openness, and psychotic-spectrum traits, consistent with the idea of a continuum.

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