ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (2): 213-224.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2015.00213

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Neural Basis of Creative Thinking during Four Stages

ZHAN Huijia1; LIU Chang1; SHEN Wangbing1,2   

  1. (1 Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210097, China) (2 Institute of Applied Psychology, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China)
  • Received:2014-04-13 Online:2015-02-14 Published:2015-02-14
  • Contact: LIU Chang, E-mail:


Wallas put forward an important creative process model and defined four stages of creativity as follows: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. The investigations of brain state before the presentation of a creative problem show that the neural activity of the preparation stage is associate with medial PFC/ACC and temporal areas. The neuroscientific researches on presentation of a hint during incubation, delayed insight and mind-wandering reflect the neural correlates of incubation, and the main active brain regions during this stage include hippocampus and ventrolateral PFC. The last two stages are associated with a neural network consisting of several brain regions including PFC, ACC, superior temporal gyrus, hippocampus, precunes, cunes, lingual gyrus and cerebellum et al. The PFC and ACC are involved in different kinds of insight problem solving; the superior temporal gyrus is responsible for the formation of remote associations; the hippocampus is associated with the process of mental set breaking and formation of novel associations; the lateral prefrontal cortex is responsible for mental set shifting; the precunes, left middle/inferior frontal gyrus and lingual gyrus participate in the process of prototype activation. In addition, the verification of the details of solution is found to rely on the left lateral prefrontal cortex. Future studies can be improved in the aspects of research subjects, contents and methods, so that the process of creative thinking can be investigated systematically.

Key words: creative thinking, four stages, neural correlates, incubation, insight