The origins of originality: the neural bases of creative thinking and originality.Neuropsychologia 2011; 49(2):178-85N
Although creativity has been related to prefrontal activity, recent neurological case studies postulate that patients who have left frontal and temporal degeneration involving deterioration of language abilities may actually develop de novo artistic abilities. In this study, we propose a neural and cognitive model according to which a balance between the two hemispheres affects a major aspect of creative cognition, namely, originality. In order to examine the neural basis of originality, that is, the ability to produce statistically infrequent ideas, patients with localized lesions in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), and posterior parietal and temporal cortex (PC), were assessed by two tasks involving divergent thinking and originality. Results indicate that lesions in the mPFC involved the most profound impairment in originality. Furthermore, precise anatomical mapping of lesions indicated that while the extent of lesion in the right mPFC was associated with impaired originality, lesions in the left PC were associated with somewhat elevated levels of originality. A positive correlation between creativity scores and left PC lesions indicated that the larger the lesion is in this area the greater the originality. On the other hand, a negative correlation was observed between originality scores and lesions in the right mPFC. It is concluded that the right mPFC is part of a right fronto-parietal network which is responsible for producing original ideas. It is possible that more linear cognitive processing such as language, mediated by left hemisphere structures interferes with creative cognition. Therefore, lesions in the left hemisphere may be associated with elevated levels of originality.