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Cereb Cortex. 2017 Jul 1;27(7):3542-3552. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw171.

Changes in Brain Activation Associated with Spontaneous Improvization and Figural Creativity After Design-Thinking-Based Training: A Longitudinal fMRI Study.

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Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Pacific Graduate School of Psychology-Stanford University Psy.D. Consortium, 1791 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Taipei City Hospital Zhong-Xing Branch, No. 145 Zhengzhou Rd, Datong area, Taipei, Taiwan.
Institute of Biomedical Engineering, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei 10617, Taiwan.
Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, Stanford University, Building 550, 416 Escondido Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.
Department of Radiology, Stanford University School of Medicine, 300 Pasteur Road, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Creativity is widely recognized as an essential skill for entrepreneurial success and adaptation to daily-life demands. However, we know little about the neural changes associated with creative capacity enhancement. For the first time, using a prospective, randomized control design, we examined longitudinal changes in brain activity associated with participating in a five-week design-thinking-based Creative Capacity Building Program (CCBP), when compared with Language Capacity Building Program (LCBP). Creativity, an elusive and multifaceted construct, is loosely defined as an ability to produce useful/appropriate and novel outcomes. Here, we focus on one of the facets of creative thinking-spontaneous improvization. Participants were assessed pre- and post-intervention for spontaneous improvization skills using a game-like figural Pictionary-based fMRI task. Whole-brain group-by-time interaction revealed reduced task-related activity in CCBP participants (compared with LCBP participants) after training in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior/paracingulate gyrus, supplementary motor area, and parietal regions. Further, greater cerebellar-cerebral connectivity was observed in CCBP participants at post-intervention when compared with LCBP participants. In sum, our results suggest that improvization-based creative capacity enhancement is associated with reduced engagement of executive functioning regions and increased involvement of spontaneous implicit processing.


creativity; fMRI; functional connectivity; intervention; randomized control trial

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