Creativity – “The more you think about it, the more you mess it up,”

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“We found that activation of the brain’s executive-control centers — the parts of the brain that enable you to plan, organize and manage your activities — is negatively associated with creative task performance,”

Unexpected brain structures tied to creativity, and to stifling it — ScienceDaily

Investigators at Stanford University have found a surprising link between creative problem-solving and heightened activity in the cerebellum, a structure located in the back of the brain and more typically thought of as the body’s movement-coordination center.

The cerebellum, traditionally viewed as the brain’s practice-makes-perfect, movement-control center, hasn’t been previously recognized as critical to creativity…”We found that activation of the brain’s executive-control centers — the parts of the brain that enable you to plan, organize and manage your activities — is negatively associated with creative task performance,”…Increasing subjective difficulty of drawing a word correlated with increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an executive-function center involved in attention and evaluation. But high creativity scores later assigned by the raters were associated with low activity in the executive-function center. Higher creativity scores were associated with higher activation in the cerebellum.

On analysis, a number of brain areas were more active when subjects were engaged in drawing words than when they were drawing zigzag lines. Peak activation occurred in the cerebellum and regions of the cortex known to be involved in coordinating motor control or acting as a visual sketchpad…

But the heightened activity in the cerebellum was unexpected, as was its association with high creativity scores subsequently assigned by the raters. In monkeys, this brain region has been found to be especially active in learning and practicing new movements…”Anatomical and, now, functional evidence point to the cerebellum as doing much more than simply coordination of movement,”

He and his colleagues speculate that the cerebellum may be able to model all new types of behavior as the more frontally located cortical regions make initial attempts to acquire those behaviors. The cerebellum then takes over and, in an iterative and subconscious manner, perfects the behavior, relieving the cortical areas of that burden and freeing them up for new challenges.  “It’s likely that the cerebellum is the coordination center for the rest of brain, allowing other regions to be more efficient,” said Reiss.

“As our study also shows, sometimes a deliberate attempt to be creative may not be the best way to optimize your creativity,” he said. “While greater effort to produce creative outcomes involves more activity of executive-control regions, you actually may have to reduce activity in those regions in order to achieve creative outcomes.”

Saggar put it more bluntly. “The more you think about it, the more you mess it up,” he said.

  • A specific fronto-striatal decision circuit is activated by cost-benefit conflict
  • It primarily targets striatal striosomes, linked to limbic functions of striatum
  • Its optogenetic control selectively alters decisions under cost-benefit conflict
  • Its corticostriatal control is exerted through a striatal inhibitory microcircuit

Summary

A striking neurochemical form of compartmentalization has been found in the striatum of humans and other species, dividing it into striosomes and matrix. The function of this organization has been unclear, but the anatomical connections of striosomes indicate their relation to emotion-related brain regions, including the medial prefrontal cortex. We capitalized on this fact by combining pathway-specific optogenetics and electrophysiology in behaving rats to search for selective functions of striosomes. We demonstrate that a medial prefronto-striosomal circuit is selectively active in and causally necessary for cost-benefit decision-making under approach-avoidance conflict conditions known to evoke anxiety in humans. We show that this circuit has unique dynamic properties likely reflecting striatal interneuron function. These findings demonstrate that cognitive and emotion-related functions are, like sensory-motor processing, subject to encoding within compartmentally organized representations in the forebrain and suggest that striosome-targeting corticostriatal circuits can underlie neural processing of decisions fundamental for survival.

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