The Neural Mechanism Underlying Cognitive and Emotional Processes in Creativity

Simeng Gu, Mengdan Gao, Yaoyao Yan, Fushun Wang, Yi Yuan Tang, Jason H. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Creativity is related to both cognition and emotion, which are the two major mental processes, interacting with each other to form psychological processes. Emotion is the major driving force of almost all creativities, sometimes in an unconscious way. Even though there are many studies concerning the relationship between creativity and cognition, there are few studies about the neural mechanisms of the emotional effects on creativity. Here, we introduce a novel model to explain the relationship between emotions and creativities: Three Primary Color model, which proposes that there are four major basic emotions; these basic emotions are subsided by three monoamines, just like the three primary colors: dopamine-joy, norepinephrine-stress (fear and anger), and serotonin-punishment. Interestingly, these three neuromodulators play similar roles in creativity, whose core features are value and novelty (surprise), like the characteristics of the core features of basic emotions (hedonic value and arousal value). Dysfunctions of these neuromodulators may be the reasons for both psychopathology and creativity, in that they can change the thinking styles such as novelty seeking behavior, hyper-connectivity of brain areas, and/or cognitive disinhibition to induce both creativity and psychopathology. This new model will not only help researchers understand the dynamics of basic emotion elements, it can also bring an entirely new perspective into the relationship between psychopathology and creativity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1924
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - Oct 31 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • basic emotions
  • cognition
  • core affect
  • creativity
  • monoamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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