ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (4): 427-436 .doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00427

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An Explorative fMRI Study of Human Creative Thinking Using A Specially Designed iCAD System

FAN Liangyan;FAN Xiaofang;LUO Weichao;WU Gonghang;YAN Xu;YIN Dazhi;LV Yue;ZHU Mingjun;XU Dongrong   

  1. (1 Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Key Laboratories of Brain Genome & Magnetic resonance, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China) (2 Department of Computer Science East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China) (3 Neurosurgery, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310009, China) (4 MRI Unit/Epidemiology Division, Columbia University & New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY 10032, USA)
  • Received:2013-02-16 Published:2014-04-25 Online:2014-04-25
  • Contact: XU Dongrong


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is widely used in cognitive neuroscience and psychological research. Studying the mechanism of creative thinking in humans is one of the hottest topics in fMRI studies, which is actually a subject received intensive attention across many different disciplines. In the field of intelligent computer-aided design (iCAD), the framework of “multi-source analog generation design” based on analogical reasoning is a computable model that can mimic human creative thinking to certain extent, because of its characteristics of capable of generating things that did not previously exist. We developed an iCAD software system, called "Three-Source Analog System for Face Generation”, for fMRI studies of human creative thinking to explore its neurological mechanism. We also developed a magnetic resonance compatible platform, which can synchronize scanning with the corresponding experimental tasks, and simultaneously collect and record the subject’s reaction. While nobody has introduced this concept into fMRI studies, we propose for the first time to study human creative thinking in our work, using this analogue generation model. In this study, we designed two kinds of task: The “design task” under the open-ends mode and the “control task” under the problem solving mode. Design task allows a participant to design with freedom, however, the control task imposes some limits. We collected imaging data from a total of 15 healthy participants. Statistical analysis of comparing the imaging data under the two modes showed that the design task induced more significant activations in the medial prefrontal cortex, middle frontal gyrus, right superior temporal gyrus, temporal lobe gyrus, anterior cingulate cortex, bilateral hippocampus and precuneus, which may suggest that these regions are highly related to creative thinking. This activation pattern in human brains is consistent with the well-known model of “Three-factor Anatomical Model of Creativity”. Based on the findings, we speculate that: (1) The medial prefrontal cortex may be associated with the reception of ego during the creative activity, (2) The temporal lobe may be the major responsible region for continuous production and output of new ideas, (3) The limbic system consisting of the anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus could be confirmed to be in charge of the power source for driving creative activity. In summary, this study has testified that creative thinking is the result of a collaboration of multiple brain regions, whose activities demonstrate a processing pattern of distributed network.

Key words: creative thinking, functional magnetic resonance imaging, neural mechanism, artificial intelligence