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Title: On creativity in synaesthetes : roles of neural connectivity, cognitive control, and perceptual correspondence
Author: Mulvenna, C. M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 0486
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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The primary characteristic of synaesthesia is the experience of longterm, consistent, cross-category correspondences. However, synaesthetes may have cognitive differences that have no overt relation to the synaesthetic experience. Historically, these secondary characteristics have not been afforded the same empirical attention as the primary characteristic. However, their investigation is particularly important, because synaesthetic experiences may be an external marker for a broader set of underlying characteristics in the neuro-cognition of synaesthetes. The present thesis examines the secondary characteristic of creativity in synaesthetes. For three main reasons, the relation between creativity and synaesthesia has been challenging to understand, despite investigations into it spanning a century. First, there is nothing explicitly creative about a synaesthetic experience. Second, since creativity test performance is confounded with many elements of the standard method of synaesthete recruitment (self-selection), the investigation of creativity in synaesthetes faces fundamental methodological obstacles. Third, in the past the only question has been whether synaesthetes are more creative than non-synaesthetes, without exploring why and how synaesthetes could be more creative. The present thesis takes a new approach to the study of creativity in synaesthetes. First, synaesthete self-selection is replaced with large‐scale population screening. Second, the neuro-cognition of synaesthetes is investigated with a view to exploring the possible bases of their creative cognition abilities. Behavioural results reveal that synaesthetes have significantly elevated abilities in creative cognition, but are no different than non-synaesthetes in creative perception or measures of creative output. Neurocognitive results reveal that, compared to non-synaesthetes, synaesthetes have increased functional connectivity in intermodal synaesthesia (complex audio visual synaesthesia), and higher levels of voluntary cognitive control, both of which are typically related to higher cognitive creativity in the general population. A new dual model is proposed to account for the results and can be summarized as follows. First, synaesthetes have neuro-cognitive differences that contribute to their significantly and reliably elevated abilities to generate creative ideas. Second, synaesthetes have neuro-perceptual differences that can contribute towards elevated pursuit of artistry, but only when also accompanied by the environmental factors and abilities that are needed by others (non-synaesthetes) to also excel in the arts. Therefore, despite the attention that has been given to synaesthetic art, the real relation between synaesthesia and creativity lies with creative thought.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available