EEG alpha power and creative ideation

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Jul;44(100):111-23. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.12.002. Epub 2012 Dec 12.


Neuroscientific studies revealed first insights into neural mechanisms underlying creativity, but existing findings are highly variegated and often inconsistent. Despite the disappointing picture on the neuroscience of creativity drawn in recent reviews, there appears to be robust evidence that EEG alpha power is particularly sensitive to various creativity-related demands involved in creative ideation. Alpha power varies as a function of creativity-related task demands and the originality of ideas, is positively related to an individuals' creativity level, and has been observed to increase as a result of creativity interventions. Alpha increases during creative ideation could reflect more internally oriented attention that is characterized by the absence of external bottom-up stimulation and, thus, a form of top-down activity. Moreover, they could indicate the involvement of specific memory processes such as the efficient (re-)combination of unrelated semantic information. We conclude that increased alpha power during creative ideation is among the most consistent findings in neuroscientific research on creativity and discuss possible future directions to better understand the manifold brain mechanisms involved in creativity.

Keywords: Alpha; Creativity; Divergent thinking; EEG; ERD; ERS; Internal attention; Synchronization; Top-down control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Creativity*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Thinking / physiology*