Creative cognition and dopaminergic modulation of fronto-striatal networks: Integrative review and research agenda

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Abstract

Creative cognition is key to human functioning yet the underlying neurobiological mechanisms are sparsely addressed and poorly understood. Here we address the possibility that creative cognition is a function of dopaminergic modulation in fronto-striatal brain circuitries. It is proposed that (i) creative cognition benefits from both flexible and persistent processing, (ii) striatal dopamine and the integrity of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway is associated with flexible processing, while (iii) prefrontal dopamine and the integrity of the mesocortical dopaminergic pathway is associated with persistent processing. We examine this possibility in light of studies linking creative ideation, divergent thinking, and creative problem-solving to polymorphisms in dopamine receptor genes, indirect markers and manipulations of the dopaminergic system, and clinical populations with dysregulated dopaminergic activity. Combined, studies suggest a functional differentiation between striatal and prefrontal dopamine: moderate (but not low or high) levels of striatal dopamine benefit creative cognition by facilitating flexible processes, and moderate (but not low or high) levels of prefrontal dopamine enable persistence-driven creativity.

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