Brain correlates underlying creative thinking: EEG alpha activity in professional vs. novice dancers

Neuroimage. 2009 Jul 1;46(3):854-62. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.02.036. Epub 2009 Mar 6.


Neuroscientific research on creativity has revealed valuable insights into possible brain correlates underlying this complex mental ability domain. However, most of the studies investigated brain activity during the performance of comparatively simple (verbal) type of tasks and the majority of studies focused on samples of the normal population. In this study we investigate EEG activity in professional dancers (n=15) who have attained a high level of expertise in this domain. This group was compared with a group of novices (n=17) who have only basic experience in dancing and completed no comprehensive training in this field. The EEG was recorded during performance of two different dancing imagery tasks which differed with respect to creative demands. In the first task participants were instructed to mentally perform a dance which should be as unique and original as possible (improvisation dance). In the waltz task they were asked to imagine dancing the waltz, a standard dance which involves a sequence of monotonous steps (lower creative demands). In addition, brain activity was also measured during performance of the Alternative Uses test. We observed evidence that during the generation of alternative uses professional dancers show stronger alpha synchronization in posterior parietal brain regions than novice dancers. During improvisation dance, professional dancers exhibited more right-hemispheric alpha synchronization than the group of novices did, while during imagining dancing the waltz no significant group differences emerged. The findings complement and extend existing findings on the relationship between EEG alpha activity and creative thinking.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm / methods*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Creativity*
  • Dancing / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*