Greater Hemispheric Specialization, not Integration = Increased Creativity

Rafeeque Bhadelia

Rafeeque Bhadelia

Increased connection between brain hemispheres has been considered essential for creative problem-solving and creative expression:  Previous research reported a relationship between the size of the corpus callosum connecting brain hemispheres.

However, a more nuanced understanding of brain structure is needed, based on contradictory findings from Cornell’s Dana W. Moore, collaborating with Rafeeque A. Bhadelia and Carl Fulwiler of Tufts and Suffolk University’s Rebecca L. Billings and David A. Gansler, teamed with University of Florida’s Kenneth M. Heilman, and Kenneth M.J. Rood of Boston University.

Carl Fulwiler

Carl Fulwiler

The team measured creativity in divergent thinking using the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) for 21 right-handed male volunteers.
Divergent-thinking tasks provide scores for fluency, flexibility, originality, abstractness, resistance to premature closure, and elaboration, and additional scores for emotional expressiveness, story-telling articulateness, movement, synthesis of figures, humor, richness of imagery, and fantasy.

Paul Torrance

Paul Torrance

Results from the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) explained almost half of the variance in creative achievement, measured by quantity of publicly-recognized innovative accomplishments and ratings by judges of each participant’s three most significant creative work products in research by Indiana University of Connecticut’s Jonathan Plucker.

Jonathan Plucker

Jonathan Plucker

Moore’s team also performed volumetric MRIs participants’ distributed inter- and intra-hemispheric network activity, and confirmed the relationship between visual–spatial divergent .

However, they found no significant relationship between the right hemisphere’s white matter volume (WMV) and creative production in divergent thinking tasks.

In fact, people with smaller corpus callosum in relation to total white matter volume scored higher on divergent-thinking tasks than those with larger corpus callosum.

Torrance Test of Creativity

Torrance Test of Creativity

Smaller white matter volume indicates more successful neuronal pruning during brain development, leading to increased neural connection and modular brain organization efficiency, they suggested.

Lateralized knowledge processing and momentary suspension of hemispheric modularity may account for creative illumination, incubation and generating divergent ideas, noted University of Southern California’s Joseph E. Bogen and Glenda M. Bogen.
Both processes were aided by decreased callosal connectivity and increased enhances hemispheric specialization in their observations.

Joseph E. Bogen

Joseph E. Bogen

Creativity and brain structures seem to have a reciprocal relationship:  The brain’s structure is reflected in creative performance, and can be changed by training in visual art.

As drawing skills improved, cortical and cerebellar activity patterns changed and prefrontal white matter reorganized, shown in monthly fMRI scans by Dartmouth’s Alexander Schlegel, Prescott Alexander, Sergey V. Fogelson, Xueting Li, Zhengang Lu, Peter J. Kohler, Enrico Riley, Peter U. Tse, and Ming Men.

Alex Schlegel, Prescott Alexander

Alex Schlegel, Prescott Alexander

In addition, participants showed increased divergent thinking and use of model systems, processes, and imagery, but not perceptual abilities.

These findings indicate that neural pathways are adaptable or “plastic” to enable creative cognition and perceptual-motor integration.

-*What do you do to change your brain function?

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©Kathryn Welds

1 thought on “Greater Hemispheric Specialization, not Integration = Increased Creativity

  1. kathrynwelds Post author

    Gary W. Kelly wrote:
    It is good to remember that a correlation does not represent a causal relationship. The work cited is much like a snapshot of what some researchers now think. This field changes almost monthly, so what appears true today may not be in a few months. The one item that is clear is that the neuroplastic brain performs best when constantly challenged with new demands. Learning new skills–especially ones that diverge from prior experience, does make a difference in neurologic health. Exercise when combined with learning does promote long term health and quality of life improvements.

    Kathryn Welds responded:
    Thanks for the very important reminders, Gary, that these findings suggest a relationship, and it may not be causal. As you say, new findings are frequently released so we can all stand by for the next installment in the continuing discussion of brain structure and function related to creative performance.


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