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Neuroimage. 2011 Mar 15;55(2):681-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.052. Epub 2010 Nov 25.

Failing to deactivate: the association between brain activity during a working memory task and creativity.

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Division of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer, Tohoku University, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Japan.


Working memory (WM) is an essential component for human higher order cognitive activities. Creativity has been essential to the development of human civilization. Previous studies from different fields have suggested creativity and capacity of WM have opposing characteristics possibly in terms of diffuse attention. However, despite a number of functional imaging studies on creativity, how creativity relates to brain activity during WM has never been investigated. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we investigated this issue using an n-back WM paradigm and a psychometric measure of creativity (a divergent thinking test). A multiple regression analysis revealed that individual creativity was significantly and positively correlated with brain activity in the precuneus during the 2-back task (WM task), but not during the non-WM 0-back task. As the precuneus shows deactivation during cognitive tasks, our findings show that reduced task induced deactivation (TID) in the precuneus is associated with higher creativity measured by divergent thinking. The precuneus is included in the default mode network, which is deactivated during cognitive tasks. The magnitude of TID in the default mode network is considered to reflect the reallocation of cognitive resources from networks irrelevant to the performance of the task. Thus, our findings may indicate that individual creativity, as measured by the divergent thinking test, is related to the inefficient reallocation of attention, congruent with the idea that diffuse attention is associated with individual creativity.

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