One-way traffic: The inferior frontal gyrus controls brain activation in the middle temporal gyrus and inferior parietal lobule during divergent thinking

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Abstract

Contrary to earlier approaches that focused on the contributions of isolated brain regions to the emergence of creativity, there is now growing consensus that creative thought emerges from the interaction of multiple brain regions, often embedded within larger brain networks. Specifically, recent evidence from studies of divergent thinking suggests that kernel ideas emerge in posterior brain regions residing within the semantic system and/or the default mode network (DMN), and that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) regions within the executive control network (ECN) constrain those ideas for generating outputs that meet task demands. However, despite knowing that regions within these networks exhibit interaction, to date the direction of the relationship has not been tested directly. By applying Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM) to fMRI data collected during a divergent thinking task, we tested the hypothesis that the PFC exerts unidirectional control over the middle temporal gyrus (MTG) and the inferior parietal lobule (IPL), vs. the hypothesis that these two sets of regions exert bidirectional control over each other (in the form of feedback loops). The data were consistent with the former model by demonstrating that the right inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) exerts unidirectional control over MTG and IPL, although the evidence was somewhat stronger in the case of the MTG than the IPL. Our findings highlight potential causal pathways that could underlie the neural bases of divergent thinking.

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