The time course of creativity: Multivariate classification of default and executive network contributions to creative cognition over time

Lloyd-Cox, James; Chen, Qunlin and Beaty, Roger E.. 2022. The time course of creativity: Multivariate classification of default and executive network contributions to creative cognition over time. Cortex, 156, pp. 90-105. ISSN 0010-9452 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Research indicates that creative cognition depends on both associative and controlled processes, corresponding to the brain's default mode network (DMN) and executive control network (ECN) networks. However, outstanding questions include how the DMN and ECN operate over time during creative task performance, and whether creative cognition involves distinct generative and evaluative stages. To address these questions, we used multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to assess how the DMN and ECN contribute to creative cognition over three successive time phases during the production of a single creative idea. Training classifiers to predict trial condition (creative vs non-creative), we used classification accuracy as a measure of the extent of creative activity in each brain network and time phase. Across both networks, classification accuracy was highest in early phases, decreased in mid phases, and increased again in later phases, following a U-shaped curve. Notably, classification accuracy was significantly greater in the ECN than the DMN during early phases, while differences between networks at later time phases were non-significant. We also computed correlations between classification accuracy and human-rated creative performance, to assess how relevant the creative activity in each network was to the creative quality of ideas. In line with expectations, classification accuracy in the DMN was most related to creative quality in early phases, decreasing in later phases, while classification accuracy in the ECN was least related to creative quality in early phases, increasing in later phases. Given the theorized roles of the DMN in generation and the ECN in evaluation, we interpret these results as tentative evidence for the existence of separate generative and evaluative stages in creative cognition that depend on distinct neural substrates.

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Funding: R.B. is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation [DRL-1920653]. This research was supported by grant RFP-15-12 to R.B. from the Imagination Institute, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Imagination Institute or the John Templeton Foundation.

Data Access Statement:

A link to the processed data and code for this study is included in the manuscript.


Creativity, Multi-variate pattern analysis, Time-course, Default network Executive network

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11 August 2022Accepted
11 October 2022Published Online
November 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

18 Jan 2024 15:52

Last Modified:

18 Jan 2024 15:57

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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