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

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many studies have assessed the neural underpinnings of creativity, failing to find a clear anatomical localization. We aimed to provide evidence for a multi-componential neural system for creativity. We applied a general activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis to 45 fMRI studies. Three individual ALE analyses were performed to assess creativity in different cognitive domains (Musical, Verbal, and Visuo-spatial). The general ALE revealed that creativity relies on clusters of activations in the bilateral occipital, parietal, frontal, and temporal lobes. The individual ALE revealed different maximal activation in different domains. Musical creativity yields activations in the bilateral medial frontal gyrus, in the left cingulate gyrus, middle frontal gyrus, and inferior parietal lobule and in the right postcentral and fusiform gyri. Verbal creativity yields activations mainly located in the left hemisphere, in the prefrontal cortex, middle and superior temporal gyri, 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 bilateral thalamus and the left precentral gyrus. This evidence suggests that creativity relies on multi-componential neural networks and that different creativity domains depend on different brain regions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1195
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Boccia, Piccardi, Palermo, Nori and Palmiero. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • creativity
  • divergent thinking
  • executive functions
  • idea generation
  • musical improvisation
  • open-ended problems
  • verbal processing
  • visuo-spatial processing


Dive into the research topics of 'Where do bright ideas occur in our brain? Meta-analytic evidence from neuroimaging studies of domain-specific creativity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this