This article is part of the Research Topic Do we need neuroscience of creativity?

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Hum. Neurosci., 11 November 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00756

Exceptional visuospatial imagery in schizophrenia; implications for madness and creativity

  • Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

Biographical and historical accounts suggest a link between scientific creativity and schizophrenia. Longitudinal studies of gifted children indicate that visuospatial imagery plays a pivotal role in exceptional achievements in science and mathematics. We asked whether visuospatial imagery is enhanced in individuals with schizophrenia (SZ). We compared SZ and matched healthy controls (HC) on five visuospatial tasks tapping parietal and frontoparietal functions. Two aspects of visuospatial transformation, spatial location and mental imagery manipulation were examined with Paper Folding Test (PFT) and jigsaw puzzle task (JPT), respectively. Visuospatial intelligence was assessed with Ravens Progressive Matrices, which is associated with frontoparietal network activity. Hemispatial inattention implicating parietal function was assessed with line bisection (LB) task. Mediated by prefrontal cortex, spatial delayed response task (DRT) was used to index working memory maintenance, which was impaired in SZ compared to HC. In contrast, SZ showed intact visuospatial intelligence and transformation of location. Further, SZ performed significantly better than HC on JPT indicating enhanced mental imagery manipulation. Spatial working memory (SWM) maintenance and mental imagery manipulation were strongly associated in HC but dissociated in SZ. Thus, we observed enhanced mental imagery manipulation in SZ but the dissociation of mental imagery from working memory suggests a disrupted frontoparietal network. Finally, while HC showed the expected leftward pseudoneglect, SZ showed increased rightward LB bias implicating left hemispatial inattention and impaired right parietal control of spatial attention. The current results chart a unique profile of impaired, spared and enhanced parietal-mediated visuospatial functions implicating parietal abnormalities as a biobehavioral marker for SZ. We discuss these results in relation to creative cognition.

Keywords: schizophrenia, creativity, mental imagery, parietal lobe, working memory

Citation: Benson TL and Park S (2013) Exceptional visuospatial imagery in schizophrenia; implications for madness and creativity. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:756. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00756

Received: 17 May 2013; Accepted: 22 October 2013;
Published online: 11 November 2013.

Edited by:

Zbigniew R. Struzik, The University of Tokyo, Japan

Reviewed by:

Joel Pearson, The University of New South Wales, Australia
Ahmad Abu-Akel, University of Birmingham, UK

Copyright © 2013 Benson and Park. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Taylor L. Benson, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, 111 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37240, USA e-mail:

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