ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research

Creativity after focal brain lesions - a matter of paradoxical facilitation?

Project Members:   Nicole Göbel, Magdalena Camenzind, Aleksandra Eberhard-Moscicka, René Müri  
Project Start: 01.06.2018
Project Funding: SNF

Creativity is a complex neuro-psycho-philosophical phenomenon that is difficult to define. There is no consensus about a concrete definition of the concept of creativity. Traditionally, creativity has been considered as a multi-faceted phenomenon, resulting in the production of new and useful ideas, rather than as a unitary, individual component of cognition, personality, or perception.

The idea that a brain lesion may improve certain cognitive functions is intriguing. Kapur (1996) stated that, when we are faced with a patient, it naturally follows that most emphasis is placed on the patient’s deficits. By focusing on the negative changes following a brain lesion, the lesion-deficit model can cause to overlook positive changes, such as plasticity-related phenomena. The paradoxical facilitation account proposes that a lesion in a given brain area can lead to a reversal of the inhibition on other, connected areas, or results in a compensatory functional augmentation in these areas. This can result in a counterintuitive, paradoxical improvement in the functions mediated by these areas.

There are only few group studies and several single case reports of patients with de-novo artistic creativity and there are no published longitudinal studies concerning the evolution of creativity in patients with focal brain lesions. With the present longitudinal study, following up patients with focal brain lesions after stroke over 2 years, we hope to gain considerable insights into how acute brain lesions can lead to the development of enhanced creative functioning. The following research questions will be addressed by our project: 1) Role of the lesioned hemisphere, in particular the role of the right hemisphere in the enhancement of creativity; 2) Longitudinal evaluation of creative enhancement after focal lesions, there are no systematic data about creative enhancement in the acute and subacute phase after brain injury; and 3) whether creativity is a matter of paradoxical facilitation or the result of plasticity and repair processes. Finally, we will perform lesion-symptom mapping to correlate the localization of the focal lesions with creative performance.

We expect this study to provide insight into the creativity network in the brain as well as how it correlates to sleep and how easy creativity can be influenced by TMS.

Keywords: Creativity, focal brain lesion, plasticity, human, paradoxical facilitation, longitudinal study