Used as Visual Stimuli (a) Schematic showing fMRI stimulus and instruction presentation paradigm
and (b) Photographs representing positive, ambiguous and negative emotions. Photographs were shot
indoors in black and white with a 50 mm lens at f16 using a Nikon D700 digital SLR camera.
(January 5, 2016) Abstract
Emotion is a primary motivator for creative behaviors, yet the interaction between the neural systems involved in creativity and those involved in emotion has not been studied. In the current study, we addressed this gap by using fMRI to examine piano improvisation in response to emotional cues. We showed twelve professional jazz pianists photographs of an actress representing a positive, negative or ambiguous emotion. Using a non-ferromagnetic thirty-five key keyboard, the pianists improvised music that they felt represented the emotion expressed in the photographs. Here we show that activity in prefrontal and other brain networks involved in creativity is highly modulated by emotional context. Furthermore, emotional intent directly modulated functional connectivity of limbic and paralimbic areas such as the amygdala and insula. These findings suggest that emotion and creativity are tightly linked, and that the neural mechanisms underlying creativity may depend on emotional state.