Where do bright ideas occur in ourbrain? Meta-analytic evidence from neuroimaging studies of domain-specific creativity

Maddalena Boccia, Laura Piccardi, Liana Palermo, Raffaella Nori, Massimiliano Palmiero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many studies have assessed the neural underpinnings of creativity, failing to find a clearanatomical localization. We aimed to provide evidence for a multi-componential neuralsystem for creativity. We applied a general activation likelihood estimation (ALE) metaanalysisto 45 fMRI studies. Three individual ALE analyses were performed to assesscreativity in different cognitive domains (Musical, Verbal, and Visuo-spatial). The generalALE revealed that creativity relies on clusters of activations in the bilateral occipital,parietal, frontal, and temporal lobes. The individual ALE revealed different maximalactivation in different domains. Musical creativity yields activations in the bilateral medialfrontal gyrus, in the left cingulate gyrus, middle frontal gyrus, and inferior parietal lobuleand in the right postcentral and fusiform gyri. Verbal creativity yields activations mainlylocated in the left hemisphere, in the prefrontal cortex, middle and superior temporalgyri, inferior parietal lobule, postcentral and supramarginal gyri, middle occipital gyrus,and insula. The right inferior frontal gyrus and the lingual gyrus were also activated.Visuo-spatial creativity activates the right middle and inferior frontal gyri, the bilateralthalamus and the left precentral gyrus. This evidence suggests that creativity relies onmulti-componential neural networks and that different creativity domains depend ondifferent brain regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1195
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • Executive functions
  • Idea generation
  • Musical improvisation
  • Open-ended problems
  • Verbal processing
  • Visuo-spatial processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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