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fMRI activation related to nature of ideas generated and differences between good and poor writers during idea generation

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Background and aims. Idea generation is fundamental to writing, but has received scant research attention compared to the other cognitive processes of writing. Transcribed oral production protocols were categorized for nature of the ideas generated. Based on these categories, hypotheses were formulated and tested about which brain regions would differentiate good and poor writers during idea generation.Sample. Oral idea generation protocols were collected when children were 7 (N = 124) and 9 (N = 119 remaining in a longitudinal study). When they were 10, right-handed good writers (N = 12) and poor writers (N = 8) from the larger study underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning.Method. Two independent raters read all the oral idea generation protocols and categorized responses. During brain scanning, children rested (no task control condition) or generated ideas on a topic they wrote about after leaving the fMRI scanner.Results. Categories of ideas reflected cognitive (N = 10), metacognitive (N = 4), or language (N = 2) processes and included self-reference (N = 2), behavioural demonstrations (N = 1), or break-downs in the idea generation process (N = 5). On the fMRI idea generation/rest contrast, good writers activated more than poor writers in brain regions associated with cognition, language, and executive functions, consistent with predictions, and also in working memory, motor planning, and timing. Poor writers activated more than good writers in a brain region associated with working memory but on the opposite side of the brain.
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Language: English

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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