Pictionary-based fMRI paradigm to study the neural correlates of spontaneous improvisation and figural creativity

Saggar M., Quintin E.-M., Kienitz E., Bott N. T., Sun Z., Hong D.W.C., Chien Y.H., Liu N., Dougherty R.F., Royalty A., Hawthorne G., Reiss A.L. 2015. Scientific Reports


A novel game-like and creativity-conducive fMRI paradigm is developed to assess the neural correlates of spontaneous improvisation and figural creativity in healthy adults. Participants were engaged in the word-guessing game of PictionaryTM, using an MR-safe drawing tablet and no explicit instructions to be “creative”. Using the primary contrast of drawing a given word versus drawing a control word (zigzag), we observed increased engagement of cerebellum, thalamus, left parietal cortex, right superior frontal, left prefrontal and paracingulate/cingulate regions, such that activation in the cingulate and left prefrontal cortices negatively influenced task performance. Further, using parametric fMRI analysis, increasing subjective difficulty ratings for drawing the word engaged higher activations in the left pre-frontal cortices, whereas higher expert-rated creative content in the drawings was associated with increased engagement of bilateral cerebellum. Altogether, our data suggest that cerebral-cerebellar interaction underlying implicit processing of mental representations has a facilitative effect on spontaneous improvisation and figural creativity.