Thursday, May 14, 2015

Literary (like musical and athletic) expertise shifts brain activity to the caudate nucleus.

Erhard et al. find that creative writing by expert versus amateur writers is associated with more activation in the caudate nucleus, the same area that become more active in expert versus amateur athletes and musicians. The increased recruitment of the basal ganglia network with increasing levels of expertise correlates with behavioral automatization that facilitates complex cognitive tasks.
The aim of the present study was to explore brain activities associated with creativity and expertise in literary writing. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we applied a real-life neuroscientific setting that consisted of different writing phases (brainstorming and creative writing; reading and copying as control conditions) to well-selected expert writers and to an inexperienced control group.
During creative writing, experts showed cerebral activation in a predominantly left-hemispheric fronto-parieto-temporal network. When compared to inexperienced writers, experts showed increased left caudate nucleus and left dorsolateral and superior medial prefrontal cortex activation. In contrast, less experienced participants recruited increasingly bilateral visual areas. During creative writing activation in the right cuneus showed positive association with the creativity index in expert writers.
High experience in creative writing seems to be associated with a network of prefrontal (mPFC and DLPFC) and basal ganglia (caudate) activation. In addition, our findings suggest that high verbal creativity specific to literary writing increases activation in the right cuneus associated with increased resources obtained for reading processes.

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