Several recent neuroimaging studies have found that creative cognition involves increased cooperation of the default and executive control networks, brain systems linked to self-generated thought and cognitive control.
Default–control network interactions occur during cognitive tasks that involve the generation and evaluation of creative ideas. This pattern of brain network connectivity has been reported across domain-general creative problem solving (e.g., divergent thinking) and domain-specific artistic performance (e.g., poetry composition, musical improvisation, and visual art production).
Default network activity during creative cognition appears to reflect the spontaneous generation of candidate ideas, or potentially useful information derived from long-term memory.
The control network may couple with the default network during idea generation or evaluation to constrain cognition to meet specific task goals.
Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Connectivity During Musical Improvisation. The right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC; green) shows differential connectivity as a function of task goals during musical improvisation in professional pianists. (A) Functional connectivity associated with the goal of using specific sets of piano keys; brain maps show increased coupling between the right DLPFC and motor regions (yellow, e.g., dorsal pre-motor area and the pre-supplementary motor area). (B) Functional connectivity associated with the goal of expressing specific emotions; brain maps show increased coupling between the right DLPFC and default network regions [blue, e.g., medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), and bilateral inferior parietal lobule (IPL)].