Functional neuroimaging of visual creativity: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Laura M. Pidgeon, Madeleine Grealy, Alex H. B. Duffy, Laura Hay, Chris McTeague, Tijana Vuletic, Damien Coyle, Sam J. Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


IntroductionThe generation of creative visual imagery contributes to technological and scientific innovation and production of visual art. The underlying cognitive and neural processes are, however, poorly understood.MethodsThis review synthesizes functional neuroimaging studies of visual creativity. Seven functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and 19 electroencephalography (EEG) studies were included, comprising 27 experiments and around 800 participants.ResultsActivation likelihood estimation meta-analysis of the fMRI studies comparing visual creativity to non-rest control tasks yielded significant clusters in thalamus, left fusiform gyrus, and right middle and inferior frontal gyri. The EEG studies revealed a tendency for decreased alpha power during visual creativity compared to baseline, but comparisons of visual creativity to non-rest control tasks revealed inconsistent findings.ConclusionsThe findings are consistent with suggested contributions to visual creativity of prefrontally mediated inhibition, evaluation, and working memory, as well as visual imagery processes. Findings are discussed in relation to prominent theories of the neural basis of creativity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e00540
JournalBrain and Behavior
Issue number10
Early online date11 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished online - 11 Aug 2016


  • creative cognition
  • creative ideation
  • electroencephalography
  • functional magnetic resonance
  • imaging
  • idea generation
  • ideation
  • visual creativity
  • visual design
  • visual imagery


Dive into the research topics of 'Functional neuroimaging of visual creativity: a systematic review and meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this