Creative cognition and brain network dynamics

Using network neuroscience methods, we examine brain dynamics associated with various modes of creative thought (e.g., idea generation), aiming to isolate contributions of specific cognitive processes (e.g., memory retrieval and executive control). These findings and other recent work have shown that creative thinking involves dynamic interactions between the default and executive control networks, potentially reflecting an interplay between spontaneous and controlled modes of cognition. We are currently exploring how modulating brain network dynamics with transcranial electrical stimulation (tES) impacts creative performance.

Relevant papers

  • Beaty, R. E., Seli, P., & Schacter, D. L. (in press). Network neuroscience of creative cognition: Mapping cognitive mechanisms and individual differences in the creative brain. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences.
  • Beaty, R. E., Christensen, A. P., Benedek, M., Silvia, P. J., & Schacter, D. L. (2017). Creative constraints: Brain activity and network dynamics underlying semantic interference during idea production. NeuroImage, 148, 189-196.
  • Madore, K. P., Thakral, P. P., Beaty, R. E., Addis, D. R., & Schacter, D. L. (2017). Neural mechanisms of episodic retrieval support divergent creative thinking. Cerebral Cortex, 1-17.
  • Beaty, R. E., Benedek, M., Silvia, P. J., & Schacter, D. L. (2016). Creative cognition and brain network dynamics. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 20, 87-95.
  • Benedek, M., Jauk, E., Beaty, R. E., Fink, A., Koschutnig, K., & Neubauer, A. C. (2016). Brain mechanisms associated with internally directed attention and self-generated thought. Scientific Reports, 6, 22959.
  • Beaty, R. E., Benedek, M., Kaufman, S. B., & Silvia, P. J. (2015). Default and executive network coupling supports creative idea production. Scientific Reports, 5, 10964.

Individual differences in brain network function

In collaboration with neuroimaging labs in China and Europe, we are assessing links between personality, creative thinking ability, and brain network function. One recent study used graph theoretical analysis of resting-state fMRI data and demonstrated that openness to experience - a trait linked to creative thinking and behavior - is associated with enhanced functional connectivity within the default network, a brain system involved in mental simulation and idea production. Other research on individual differences in creative thinking has shown that highly creative people show enhanced functional coupling of the default and executive control networks. A goal for this research is to understand how variation in brain network structure and function gives rise to complex behavioral traits.

Relevant papers

  • Beaty, R. E., Kenett, Y. N., Christensen, A. P., Rosenberg, M. D., Benedek, M., Chen, Q., ... & Silvia, P. J. (2018). Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115, 1087-1092.
  • Beaty, R. E., Chen, Q., Christensen, A. P., Qiu, J., Silvia, P. J., & Schacter, D. L. (2018). Brain networks of the imaginative mind: Dynamic functional connectivity of default and cognitive control networks relates to openness to experience. Human Brain Mapping, 39, 811-821.
  • Kenett, Y. N., Medaglia, J. D., Beaty, R. E., Chen, Q., Betzel, R. F., Thompson-Schill, S. L., & Qiu, J. (2018). Driving the brain towards creativity and intelligence: A network control theory analysis. Neuropsychologia.
  • Beaty, R. E., Kaufman, S. B., Benedek, M., Jung, R. E., Kenett, Y. N., Jauk, E…& Silvia, P. J. (2016). Personality and complex brain networks: The role of openness to experience in default network efficiency. Human Brain Mapping, 37, 773-779.
  • Chen, Q., Beaty, R. E., Wei, D., Yang, J., Sun, J., Liu, W., ... & Qiu, J. (2016). Longitudinal alterations of frontoparietal and frontotemporal networks predict future creative cognitive ability. Cerebral Cortex, 28, 103-115.

Cognitive abilities and creative thought

Another line of work in the lab examines how fundamental cognitive mechanisms - such as memory retrieval and cognitive control - contribute to creative thinking ability. Using latent variable modeling, we have assessed differential contributions of lower-order intelligence factors (e.g., broad retrieval ability; Gr) and variation in semantic memory structure to divergent thinking ability. Regarding semantic networks, we use network science methods to characterize semantic memory structure associated with creative thinking and related traits, such as openness to experience. Current work aims to extend these correlational studies with experimental paradigms that can disentangle the complex interplay of top-down and bottom-up processes underlying idea production.

relevant papers

  • Christensen, A. P., Kenett, Y. N., Cotter, K. N., Beaty, R. E., & Silvia, P. J. (2018). Remotely close associations: Openness to experience and semantic memory structure. European Journal of Personality, 32, 480-492.
  • Kenett, Y. N., Beaty, R. E., Silvia, P. J., Anaki, D., & Faust, M. (2016). Structure and flexibility: Investigating the relation between the structure of the mental lexicon, fluid intelligence, and creative achievement. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 10, 377-388.
  • Beaty, R. E., Silvia, P. J., Nusbaum, E. C., Jauk, E., & Benedek, M. (2014). The roles of associative and executive processes in creative cognition. Memory & Cognition, 42, 1186-1197.
  • Silvia, P. J., Beaty, R. E., & Nusbaum, E. C. (2013). Verbal fluency and creativity: Higher-order and lower-order contributions of Broad Retrieval Ability (Gr) to divergent thinking. Intelligence, 41, 323-340.
  • Beaty, R. E. & Silvia, P. J. (2012). Why do ideas get more creative across time? An executive interpretation of the serial order effect in divergent thinking tasks. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 6, 309-319.

Neurocognitive processes of metaphor production

We also study the cognitive and neural basis of metaphor production, a creative thought process prevalent in the arts and everyday communication. To this end, we developed a new task to assess metaphor production and examined how cognitive abilities relate to the production of novel metaphoric expressions. This research showed that metaphor production relies on specific cognitive abilities, including fluid intelligence, broad retrieval ability, and crystallized knowledge. We extended these behavioral findings with an fMRI study of metaphor production, and further examined brain network interactions supporting this ability in a follow-up study using multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA). Future work will use experimental manipulations to further isolate specific cognitive and neural processes that support the production of novel figurative language.

Relevant papers

  • Beaty, R. E., Silvia, P. J., & Benedek, M. (2017). Brain networks supporting figurative language production. Brain & Cognition, 111, 163-170.
  • Benedek, M., Beaty, R. E., Jauk, E., Koschutnig, K., Fink, A., Silvia, P. J…& Neubauer, A. C. (2014). Creating metaphors: The neural basis of figurative language production. NeuroImage, 90, 99-106.
  • Beaty, R. E., & Silvia, P. J. (2013). Metaphorically speaking: Cognitive abilities and the production of figurative language. Memory & Cognition, 41, 255-267.
  • Silvia, P. J. & Beaty, R. E. (2012). Making creative metaphors: The importance of fluid intelligence for creative thought. Intelligence, 40, 343-351.