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Evidence for a left-over-right inhibitory mechanism during figural creative thinking in healthy nonartists


  • These two authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Peng Xie, Department of Neurology, 1st Affiliated Hospital, Chongqing Medical University, No.1 Youyi Road, Chongqing, China, 400016. E-mail:; or Qiyong Gong, Huaxi MR Research Centre (HMRRC), Department of Radiology, Center for Medical Imaging, West China Hospital/West China School of Medicine, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuan 610041, People's Republic of China. E-mail:


As a complex mental process, creativity requires the coordination of multiple brain regions. Previous pathological research on figural creativity has indicated that there is a mechanism by which the left side of the brain inhibits the activities of the right side of the brain during figural creative thinking, but this mechanism has not been directly demonstrated. In this study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to demonstrate the existence of this inhibitory mechanism in young adults (15 women, 11 men, mean age: 22 years) that were not artists. By making comparisons between brain activity during creative and uncreative tasks, we found increased activity in the left middle and inferior frontal lobe and strong decreases in activity in the right middle frontal lobe and the left inferior parietal lobe. As such, these data suggest that the left frontal lobe may inhibit the right hemisphere during figural creative thinking in normal people. Moreover, removal of this inhibition by practicing artistry or through specific damage to the left frontal lobe may facilitate the emergence of artistic creativity. Hum Brain Mapp 34:2724–2732, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.