Generating original ideas: The neural underpinning of originality

Naama Mayseless, Ayelet Eran, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

One of the key aspects of creativity is the ability to produce original ideas. Originality is defined in terms of the novelty and rarity of an idea and is measured by the infrequency of the idea compared to other ideas. In the current study we focused on divergent thinking (DT) - the ability to produce many alternate ideas - and assessed the neural pathways associated with originality. Considering that generation of original ideas involves both the ability to generate new associations and the ability to overcome automatic common responses, we hypothesized that originality would be associated with activations in regions related to associative thinking, including areas of the default mode network (DMN) such as medial prefrontal areas, as well as with areas involved in cognitive control and inhibition. Thirty participants were scanned while performing a DT task that required the generation of original uses for common objects. The results indicate that the ability to produce original ideas is mediated by activity in several regions that are part of the DMN including the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Furthermore, individuals who are more original exhibited enhanced activation in the ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC), which was also positively coupled with activity in the left occipital-temporal area. These results are in line with the dual model of creativity, according to which original ideas are a product of the interaction between a system that generates ideas and a control system that evaluates these ideas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-239
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroImage
Volume116
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Israeli Scientific Foundation (ISF) ( 1194/13 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.

Keywords

  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Creativity
  • FMRI
  • Originality
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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