Training in the Adolescent Brain: An fMRI Training Study on Divergent Thinking

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Abstract

Prior research suggests that adolescence is a time of enhanced sensitivity for practice and learning. In this study we tested the neural correlates of divergent thinking training in 15- to 16-year-old adolescents relative to an age-matched active control group. All participants performed an alternative uses task, a valid measure to test divergent thinking, while functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) images were acquired before and after a training program. In between the 2 scanning sessions the experimental group completed 2 weeks of divergent thinking training (8 sessions) and the control group completed 2 weeks of rule switching training (8 session). A Group × Time interaction demonstrated stable divergent thinking performance for the experimental group, whereas in the control group performance declined. Generating alternative uses (experimental task condition) relative to generating ordinary characteristics of objects (control task condition) was associated with increased activation in the supramarginal gyrus (SMG), angular gyrus (AG), and middle temporal gyrus (MTG). Test–retest analyses showed that within-individuals-activation in these regions was stable over time in both groups. Changes in alternative uses fluency over time, however, were positively associated with changes in superior lateral PFC activation over time. Together, the results indicate that core brain regions for creativity (SMG, AG, and MTG) are consistently recruited in adolescence, and that changes in performance are associated with changes in activation in lateral PFC.

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