The Eye Lab is a research unit of the Division of Cognitive and Restorative Neurology of the University Hospital of Neurology and the Department of Clinical Research of the University of Bern. The group is headed by Prof Dr. med. René Müri and currently focuses on creativity and the brain. 

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

Current Project Members:
Nicole Göbel, Magdalena Camenzind (PhD Student), Aleksandra Eberhard-Moscicka (Senior Researcher), and René Müri (Clinical Group Head)
Project Start: 01.06.2018

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 a 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 with 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 easily creativity can be influenced by TMS.

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


Influence of Sleep on Creativity

Project Members: 
Kathrin Chiffi, Aleksandra Eberhard-Moscicka (Senior Researcher), René Müri (Clinical Group Head) 
Project Start: 01.06.2018

Sleep has several known important functions, for example, consolidation of information acquired during the day and relaxation of the brain as well as of the body. Yet, there is a lot unknown about the function of sleep. To investigate how sleep can influence higher-order cognitive functions and whether these functions can be influenced by TMS, a study on sleep and creativity will be conducted.

First, a correlative set of experiments will be conducted with high- and low-creativity groups. Both groups will consist of 20 healthy individuals in the age range of 18 to 35 years. Every subject will perform a series of tests assessing their creativity and a sleep electroencephalography (EEG) will be conducted. It will be assessed whether there is a difference in the sleep EEG of both groups correlating to the differences in creativity.

In the second set of experiments, repeated TMS (rTMS) will be applied to interfere with previously established creativity nodes. We assume that the high and low creativity groups will not respond to the stimulation in the same way and that these effects can be measured by the creativity tests. Additionally, resting-state EEG will be conducted to capture if there were any effects of the TMS on the brain network.

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

Keywords: Sleep, Creativity, non-invasive brain stimulation, TMS