Abstract

Creative cognition is important to academic performance and career success during late adolescence and adulthood. However, there is a lack of longitudinal data on whether brain structural development could predict improvements in creative thinking, and how such changes interact with other cognitive abilities to support creative performance. Here we examined longitudinal alterations of brain structure and their relation to creative cognitive ability in a sample of 159 healthy young adults who were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging 2–3 times over the course of 3 years. The most robust predictor of future creative ability was the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which in conjunction with baseline creative capacity showed a 31% prediction rate. Longitudinal analysis revealed that slower decreases in gray matter density within left frontoparietal and right frontotemporal clusters predicted enhanced creative ability. Moreoever, the relationship between longitudinal alterations within frontal-related clusters and improved creative ability was moderated by the right DLPFC and working memory ability. We conclude that continuous goal-directed planning and accumulated knowledge are implemented in the right DLPFC and temporal areas, respectively, which in turn support longitudinal gains in creative cognitive ability.

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