Driving the brain towards creativity and intelligence: A network control theory analysis

Yoed N. Kenett, John D. Medaglia, Roger E. Beaty, Qunlin Chen, Richard F. Betzel, Sharon L. Thompson-Schill, Jiang Qiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


High-level cognitive constructs, such as creativity and intelligence, entail complex and multiple processes, including cognitive control processes. Recent neurocognitive research on these constructs highlight the importance of dynamic interaction across neural network systems and the role of cognitive control processes in guiding such a dynamic interaction. How can we quantitatively examine the extent and ways in which cognitive control contributes to creativity and intelligence? To address this question, we apply a computational network control theory (NCT) approach to structural brain imaging data acquired via diffusion tensor imaging in a large sample of participants, to examine how NCT relates to individual differences in distinct measures of creative ability and intelligence. Recent application of this theory at the neural level is built on a model of brain dynamics, which mathematically models patterns of inter-region activity propagated along the structure of an underlying network. The strength of this approach is its ability to characterize the potential role of each brain region in regulating whole-brain network function based on its anatomical fingerprint and a simplified model of node dynamics. We find that intelligence is related to the ability to “drive” the brain system into easy to reach neural states by the right inferior parietal lobe and lower integration abilities in the left retrosplenial cortex. We also find that creativity is related to the ability to “drive” the brain system into difficult to reach states by the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (inferior frontal junction) and higher integration abilities in sensorimotor areas. Furthermore, we found that different facets of creativity—fluency, flexibility, and originality—relate to generally similar but not identical network controllability processes. We relate our findings to general theories on intelligence and creativity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-90
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cognitive control
  • Creativity
  • Intelligence
  • Network control theory


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