Brain's Tortuous Path Spurs Creativity

Researchers at the UNM’s Department of Neurosurgery recently linked white-matter integrity in the brain to human creativity using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). Their conclusion: the less efficient the white matter, the more creative the output. Results were published this week in the journalPLoS ONE.

With funding support from the John Templeton Foundation and 72 young-adult volunteers from the University of New Mexico, Principal Investigator Rex Jung, Ph.D., examined whether white-matter integrity assessed by Fractional Anisotropy was related to two measures of creativity – divergent thinking and the personality characteristic of "openness to experience."

Study participants were administered tests in verbal and drawing creativity, and asked to list multiple uses of common objects (such as a pencil) and generate captions toNew Yorker Magazinecartoons. Independent judges ranked each participant’s creative products for a composite creativity index. "By tracking the diffusion of water in the brain through DTI, we found a link between white-matter integrity and creativity," offers Jung. "Interestingly, there was an inverse relationship predominantly in the frontal lobes between low white-matter integrity and increased creativity. The less well connected the brain was in these regions; the better the person performed on our creativity measures." Jung believes that low white-matter connectivity leads one on a less direct, more diverse route to a solution or conclusion. "Through these more distributed processing paths, perhaps the human brain is able to link together new notions and connections that might not emerge with a more efficient, direct route" he adds. Having reported extensively on brain correlates of intelligence over the last 10 years, Jung has become increasingly interested in the interplay of creativity, intelligence and personality – or Positive Neuroscience – the study of what the brain does well. By better understanding the brain in health, Jung believes deeper insight might also be gained in studies of mental illness and brain injury. For more information or to review a copy of Jung’s article entitledWhite Matter Integrity, Creativity,and Psychopathology, visit http://dx. plos .org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009818 or email rjung@salud.unm.edu.
Contact: Luke Frank, 272-3322

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