What relates newspaper, definite, and clothing? An article describing deficits in convergent problem solving and creativity following hippocampal damage

Hippocampus. 2016 Jul;26(7):835-40. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22591. Epub 2016 Apr 8.


Creativity relies on a diverse set of cognitive processes associated with distinct neural correlates, and one important aspect of creativity, divergent thinking, has been associated with the hippocampus. However, hippocampal contributions to another important aspect of creativity, convergent problem solving, have not been investigated. We tested the necessity of hippocampus for convergent problem solving using a neuropsychological method. Participants with amnesia due to hippocampal damage (N = 5) and healthy normal comparison participants (N = 5) were tested using a task that promoted solutions based on existing knowledge (Bowden and Jung-Beeman, 2003). During each trial, participants were given a list of three words (e.g., fly, man, place) and asked to respond with a word that could be combined with each of the three words (e.g., fire). The amnesic group produced significantly fewer correct responses than the healthy comparison group. These findings indicate that the hippocampus is necessary for normal convergent problem solving and that changes in the status of the hippocampus should affect convergent problem solving in the context of creative problem-solving across short intervals. This proposed contribution of the hippocampus to convergent problem solving is consistent with an expanded perspective on hippocampal function that acknowledges its role in cognitive processes beyond declarative memory. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: MTL; amnesia; convergent problem solving; creativity; hippocampus; insight.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia / etiology*
  • Amnesia / physiopathology
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Creativity*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / injuries*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Problem Solving* / physiology
  • Reaction Time