Creative aging: functional brain networks associated with divergent thinking in older and younger adults

Areeba Adnan, Roger Beaty, Paul Silvia, R. Nathan Spreng, Gary R. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Creative thinking is associated with connectivity between the default and executive control networks in the young brain. In aging, this pattern of functional coupling has been observed across multiple tasks. We have described this as the Default-Executive Coupling Hypothesis of Aging and suggest that this connectivity pattern may also be associated with creativity in older adulthood. However, age differences in brain networks implicated in creativity have yet to be investigated. The overarching goal of the present study was to examine age-related changes to functional brain networks associated with creativity. Specifically, we explored functional connectivity patterns among default and executive control brain regions associated with creative thoughts in older and younger adults. In a cross-sectional design, young (mean age = 21 y; n = 30) and older (mean age = 70 y; n = 25) participants completed a divergent thinking task during fMRI, which was examined using region of interest functional connectivity analyses. Consistent with predictions, analyses demonstrated that default and executive networks are more functionally coupled during creative thinking for older than younger adults. Critically, despite similar performance on an in-scanner creativity task, increased network efficiency was associated with creative ability for older adults only. These findings provide novel evidence of default-executive coupling as a putative mechanism associated with creative ability in later life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-158
Number of pages9
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Aging
  • Developmental Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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