EEG complexity and performance measures of creative thinking


Address reprint requests to: Dr. Matthias Mölle, Department of Neuroendocrinology, Haus 23a, Medical University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Lübeck, Germany. E-mail:


The electroencephalogram (EEG) was used because of its dimensional complexity to establish a differentiation of divergent versus convergent thought, considered fundamental modes of cortical processing. In 28 men, the EEG was recorded while solving tasks of divergent and convergent thinking and during mental relaxation. The EEG during divergent thought was compared between subjects achieving high versus low performance scores on this type of task. The dimensional complexity of the EEG was greater during divergent thinking than during convergent thinking. While solving tasks of divergent thinking, subjects with high performance scores had a lower EEG dimension than did subjects with low scores, in particular over frontal cortical areas. The changes were not reflected in single frequency bands of conventional EEG analysis. Based on Hebb's view of neuron assemblies as functional processing units, the higher EEG complexity during divergent than convergent thinking could be the result of the concurrent activation of a greater number of independently oscillating processing units.