Exploring neural signal complexity as a potential link between creative thinking, intelligence, and cognitive control

Yadwinder Kaur*, Selina Weiss, Changsong Zhou, Rico Fischer, Andrea Hildebrandt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Functional connectivity studies have demonstrated that creative thinking builds upon an interplay of multiple neural networks involving the cognitive control system. Theoretically, cognitive control has generally been discussed as the common basis underlying the positive relationship between creative thinking and intelligence. However, the literature still lacks a detailed investigation of the association patterns between cognitive control, the factors of creative thinking as measured by divergent thinking (DT) tasks, i.e., fluency and originality, and intelligence, both fluid and crystallized. In the present study, we explored these relationships at the behavioral and the neural level, based on N = 77 young adults. We focused on brain-signal complexity (BSC), parameterized by multi-scale entropy (MSE), as measured during a verbal DT and a cognitive control task. We demonstrated that MSE is a sensitive neural indicator of originality as well as inhibition. Then, we explore the relationships between MSE and factor scores indicating DT and intelligence. In a series of across-scalp analyses, we show that the overall MSE measured during a DT task, as well as MSE measured in cognitive control states, are associated with fluency and originality at specific scalp locations, but not with fluid and crystallized intelligence. The present explorative study broadens our understanding of the relationship between creative thinking, intelligence, and cognitive control from the perspective of BSC and has the potential to inspire future BSC-related theories of creative thinking.

Original languageEnglish
Article number59
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Intelligence
Issue number4
Early online date30 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • Brain signal complexity (BSC)
  • Cognitive control
  • Creative thinking
  • Creative/fluent verbal association
  • Divergent thinking (DT)
  • Fluid (gf) and crystallized intelligence (gc)
  • Inhibition
  • Multi-scale entropy (MSE)
  • Verbal creativity


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