Creativity Is Enhanced by Long-Term Mindfulness Training and Is Negatively Correlated with Trait Default-Mode-Related Low-Gamma Inter-Hemispheric Connectivity

Abstract

It is becoming increasingly accepted that creative performance, especially divergent thinking, may depend on reduced activity within the default mode network (DMN), related to mind-wandering and autobiographic self-referential processing. However, the relationship between trait (resting-state) DMN activity and divergent thinking is controversial. Here, we test the relationship between resting-state DMN activity and divergent thinking in a group of mindfulness meditation practitioners. We build on our two previous reports, which have shown DMN activity to be related to resting-state log gamma (25–45 Hz) power and inter-hemispheric functional connectivity. Using the same cohort of participants (three mindfulness groups with increasing expertise, and controls, n = 12 each), we tested (1) divergent thinking scores (Flexibility and Fluency) using the Alternative Uses task and (2) correlation between Alternative Uses scores and DMN activity as measured by resting-state gamma power and inter-hemispheric functional connectivity. We found that both Fluency and Flexibility (1) were higher in the two long-term mindfulness groups (>1000 h) compared to short-term mindfulness practitioners and control participants and (2) negatively correlated with gamma inter-hemispheric functional connectivity (frontal-midline and posterior-midline connections). In addition, (3) Fluency was significantly correlated with mindfulness expertise. Together, these results show that long-term mindfulness meditators exhibit higher divergent thinking scores in correlation with their expertise and demonstrate a negative divergent thinking—resting-state DMN activity relationship, thus largely support a negative DMN-creativity connection.

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Acknowledgments

This paper is based on a thesis (first author), supervised by the second and fourth authors, submitted to Bar-Ilan University in partial fulfilment of the requirements toward a Ph.D. This work was supported by the Mind and Life Institute Francisco J. Varela Research Award 6546 to A. Berkovich-Ohana.

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Correspondence to Aviva Berkovich-Ohana.

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Berkovich-Ohana, A., Glicksohn, J., Ben-Soussan, T.D. et al. Creativity Is Enhanced by Long-Term Mindfulness Training and Is Negatively Correlated with Trait Default-Mode-Related Low-Gamma Inter-Hemispheric Connectivity. Mindfulness 8, 717–727 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0649-y

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Keywords

  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Gamma band
  • Functional connectivity
  • Default mode network (DMN)
  • Mindfulness