Oxytonergic circuitry sustains and enables creative cognition in humans

Carsten K.W. De Dreu, Matthijs Baas, Marieke Roskes, Daniel J. Sligte, Richard P. Ebstein, Soo Hong Chew, Terry Tong, Yushi Jiang, Naama Mayseless, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Creativity enables humans to adapt flexibly to changing circumstances, to manage complex social relations and to survive and prosper through social, technological and medical innovations. In humans, chronic, trait-based as well as temporary, state-based approach orientation has been linked to increased capacity for divergent rather than convergent thinking, to more global and holistic processing styles and to more original ideation and creative problem solving. Here, we link creative cognition to oxytocin, a hypothalamic neuropeptide known to up-regulate approach orientation in both animals and humans. Study 1 (N=492) showed that plasma oxytocin predicts novelty-seeking temperament. Study 2 (N=110) revealed that genotype differences in a polymorphism in the oxytocin receptor gene rs1042778 predicted creative ideation, with GG/GT-carriers being more original than TT-carriers. Using double-blind placebo-controlled between-subjects designs, Studies 3-6 (N=191) finally showed that intranasal oxytocin (vs matching placebo) reduced analytical reasoning, and increased holistic processing, divergent thinking and creative performance. We conclude that the oxytonergic circuitry sustains and enables the day-to-day creativity humans need for survival and prosperity and discuss implications.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbernst094
Pages (from-to)1159-1165
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Creative cognition
  • Divergent thinking
  • Neurohormones
  • Oxytocin
  • Polymorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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