Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Musical creativity in the brain

Musical Creativity “Revealed” in Brain Structure: Interplay between Motor, Default Mode, and Limbic Networks

David M. Bashwiner, Christopher J. Wertz, Ranee A. Flores & Rex E. Jung


Received: 16 July 2015
Accepted: 31 December 2015
Published online: 18 February 2016


Creative behaviors are among the most complex that humans engage in, involving not only highly intricate, domain-specific knowledge and skill, but also domain-general processing styles and the affective drive to create. This study presents structural imaging data indicating that musically creative people (as indicated by self-report) have greater cortical surface area or volume in a) regions associated with domain-specific higher-cognitive motor activity and sound processing (dorsal premotor cortex, supplementary and pre-supplementary motor areas, and planum temporale), b) domain-general creative-ideation regions associated with the default mode network (dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, middle temporal gyrus, and temporal pole), and c) emotion-related regions (orbitofrontal cortex, temporal pole, and amygdala). These findings suggest that domain-specific musical expertise, default-mode cognitive processing style, and intensity of emotional experience might all coordinate to motivate and facilitate the drive to create music.

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From the introduction to  the article:

One brain network that has been proposed to be especially central to creative functioning is the default mode network (DMN)7,8. The DMN is composed of regions such as the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dMPFC), ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC), lateral temporal cortex (LTC), posterior cingulate, and inferior parietal lobule (IPL)—regions which, when a subject is not given an explicit task, tend to increase in activation relative to baseline9. The regions of this network also tend to be implicated in a number of cognitive capacities related to creativity, such as divergent thinking7,8, self-referential thinking10, affective reasoning6, mind wandering11, and mental simulation12. It might be expected, therefore, that creative behavior of a musical nature would also implicate the DMN.

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