Hippocampal amnesia disrupts creative thinking

Melissa C. Duff, Jake Kurczek, Rachael Rubin, Neal J. Cohen, Daniel Tranel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Creativity requires the rapid combination and recombination of existing mental representations to create novel ideas and ways of thinking. The hippocampal system, through its interaction with neocortical storage sites, provides a relational database necessary for the creation, updating, maintenance, and juxtaposition of mental representations used in service of declarative memory. Given this functionality, we hypothesized that hippocampus would play a critical role in creative thinking. We examined creative thinking, as measured by verbal and figural forms of the torrance tests of creative thinking (TTCT), in a group of participants with hippocampal damage and severe declarative memory impairment as well as in a group of demographically matched healthy comparison participants. The patients with bilateral hippocampal damage performed significantly worse than comparison participants on both the verbal and figural portions of the TTCT. These findings suggest that hippocampus plays a role critical in creative thinking, adding to a growing body of work pointing to the diverse ways the hallmark processing features of hippocampus serve a variety of behaviors that require flexible cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1143-1149
Number of pages7
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Amnesia
  • Creativity
  • Hippocampus
  • Relational binding
  • Representational flexibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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