Spontaneous and deliberate modes of creativity: Multitask eigen-connectivity analysis captures latent cognitive modes during creative thinking

Hua Xie, Roger E. Beaty, Sahar Jahanikia, Caleb Geniesse, Neeraj S. Sonalkar, Manish Saggar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Despite substantial progress in the quest of demystifying the brain basis of creativity, several questions remain open. One such issue concerns the relationship between two latent cognitive modes during creative thinking, i.e., deliberate goal-directed cognition and spontaneous thought generation. Although an interplay between deliberate and spontaneous thinking is often implicated in the creativity literature (e.g., dual-process models), a bottom-up data-driven validation of the cognitive processes associated with creative thinking is still lacking. Here, we attempted to capture the latent modes of creative thinking by utilizing a data-driven approach on a novel continuous multitask paradigm (CMP) that widely sampled a hypothetical two-dimensional cognitive plane of deliberate and spontaneous thinking in a single fMRI session. The CMP consisted of eight task blocks ranging from undirected mind wandering to goal-directed working memory task, while also included two widely-used creativity tasks, i.e., alternate uses task (AUT) and remote association task (RAT). Using eigen-connectivity (EC) analysis on the multitask whole-brain functional connectivity (FC) patterns, we embedded the multitask FCs into a low-dimensional latent space. The first two latent components, as revealed by the EC analysis, broadly mapped onto the two cognitive modes of deliberate and spontaneous thinking, respectively. Further, in this low-dimensional space, both creativity tasks were located in the upper right corner of high deliberate and spontaneous thinking (creative cognitive space). Neuroanatomically, the creative cognitive space was represented by not only increased intra-network connectivity within executive control and default mode network, but also by higher coupling between the two canonical brain networks. Further, individual differences reflected in the low-dimensional connectivity embeddings were related to differences in deliberate and spontaneous thinking abilities. Altogether, using a continuous multitask paradigm and a data-driven approach, we provide initial empirical evidence for the contribution of both deliberate and spontaneous modes of cognition during creative thinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number118531
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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