The Neuropsychology of Creativity

apa-logo_white_screenThe International Neuropsychological Society is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The International Neuropsychological Society maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
Educational Objectives
  1. Define at least two key elements of a “creative work” as this is used in scientific studies.​​
  2.  Describe at least three neuropsychological functions that contribute to creative expression
  3.  Provide at least one example of how understanding the brain mechanisms involved in creativity is relevant to their clinical, teaching or research activities
  4. Describe how the scientific literature so far generally has failed to assess creativity across diverse cultural contexts, but give at least one example where cross-cultural aspects of creativity have been examined


Course Information
Target Audience:Intermediate
Availability:Date Available: 2021-07-28
  You may obtain CE for this webinar at any time.
Offered for CE Yes
Cost Members $20
  Non-Members $30
Refund Policy This webinar is not eligible for refunds
CE Credits 1.0
In the 70 years since Guilford used his presidential address at the APA to launch the scientific investigation of creativity, we have learned a great deal about how to define creative achievements, identify creative individuals, and examine the associated psychological and physiological processes. This presentation summarizes work conducted at the Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity at UCLA, including studies of non-human species, studies of “free range” humans (not selected specifically for their creative achievements) and studies of humans who manifest “Big C” or exceptional creative achievement.  These studies have used a range of methods including basic genetic strategies in rodents and birds, and studies of personality, neuropsychological functions, brain function and brain structure in humans. Hypotheses about specific cognitive operations important for creativity, including working memory, response inhibition and response generation, have provided a translational framework for these studies.  A conceptual superstructure that we have termed the “edge of chaos” theory helps integrate findings across levels of analysis from the genetic through physiological properties of neural activation states to network operations and associated cognitive and behavioral processes.  The neuroimaging findings reveal functional network dynamics linking exceptional creativity to increased randomness rather than more efficient “small world” networks, perhaps providing a substrate that enables “blind variation” prior to “selective retention” following Simonton’s “BVSR” model of creativity.  The findings from the Tennenbaum Center are examined in the context of other empirical studies about the genetic transmission of traits associated with creativity, and recent conceptualizations about the “connectome landscapes” that are associated with vulnerability to or resilience in the face of perturbations, as a function of the efficiency of integration and the costs of modular organization. The presentation then examines implications of these findings and theories for understanding the relations of creativity with mental health, and for training human creative potential.

  1. Bilder, R. M., & Knudsen, K. S. (2014). Creative cognition and systems biology on the edge of chaos. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1104.
  2. Japardi, K., Bookheimer, S., Knudsen, K., Ghahremani, D. G., & Bilder, R. M. (2018). Functional magnetic resonance imaging of divergent and convergent thinking in Big-C creativity. Neuropsychologia118, 59-67.
  3. Knudsen, K. S., Bookheimer, S. Y., & Bilder, R. M. (2019). Is psychopathology elevated in Big-C visual artists and scientists?. Journal of abnormal psychology, 128(4), 273.
  4. ​​​​​​​Knudsen, K. S., Kaufman, D. S., White, S. A., Silva, A. J., Jentsch, D. J., & Bilder, R. M. (2015). Animal creativity: Cross-species studies of cognition. In Animal creativity and innovation (pp. 213-237). Academic Press.


  • Robert M. Bilder is the Tennenbaum Family Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, Chief of Psychology at UCLA Health in the David Geffen School of Medicine and Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, and Director of the Center for the Biology of Creativity in the Jane & Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior. He is a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist and directs the UCLA Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Neuropsychology. His research focuses on brain and behavior and aims to eliminate boundaries between mental health and illness, and between every day and exceptional creativity. His current NIMH-sponsored projects examine links of reward system functions in the brain to the genetics of mental illness under the aegis of the Research Domains Criteria (RDoC) initiative and have established a National Neuropsychology Network to gather neuropsychological data for advanced psychometric analyses and proposals to create novel measures of brain function. He recently completed the “Big C” project on exceptional creativity, and he now directs a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab to measure the impact of the arts on well-being.