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


Front. Hum. Neurosci., 08 July 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00330

The structure of creative cognition in the human brain

Rex E. Jung*, Brittany S. Mead, Jessica Carrasco and Ranee A. Flores
  • Department of Neurosurgery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Creativity is a vast construct, seemingly intractable to scientific inquiry—perhaps due to the vague concepts applied to the field of research. One attempt to limit the purview of creative cognition formulates the construct in terms of evolutionary constraints, namely that of blind variation and selective retention (BVSR). Behaviorally, one can limit the “blind variation” component to idea generation tests as manifested by measures of divergent thinking. The “selective retention” component can be represented by measures of convergent thinking, as represented by measures of remote associates. We summarize results from measures of creative cognition, correlated with structural neuroimaging measures including structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS). We also review lesion studies, considered to be the “gold standard” of brain-behavioral studies. What emerges is a picture consistent with theories of disinhibitory brain features subserving creative cognition, as described previously (Martindale, 1981). We provide a perspective, involving aspects of the default mode network (DMN), which might provide a “first approximation” regarding how creative cognition might map on to the human brain.

Keywords: creativity, default mode network, blind variation, divergent thinking, structural neuroimaging, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, diffusion tensor imaging

Citation: Jung RE, Mead BS, Carrasco J and Flores RA (2013) The structure of creative cognition in the human brain. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 7:330. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00330

Received: 01 May 2013; Accepted: 12 June 2013;
Published online: 08 July 2013.

Edited by:

Zbigniew R. Struzik, The University of Tokyo, Japan

Reviewed by:

Anna Abraham, Kuwait University, Kuwait
Scott B. Kaufman, New York University, USA

Copyright © 2013 Jung, Mead, Carrasco and Flores. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Rex E. Jung, Department of Neurosurgery, University of New Mexico, 801 University SE, Suite 202, Albuquerque, 87106 NM, USA e-mail:

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