Cocaine enhances figural, but impairs verbal 'flexible' divergent thinking

Nadia R P W Hutten*, Laura Steenbergen, Lorenza S Colzato, Bernard Hommel, Eef L Theunissen, Johannes G Ramaekers, Kim P C Kuypers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Web of Science)


Anecdotal evidence suggests that cocaine use will help overcome creative 'blocks' by enhancing flexible thinking. Given that cocaine is likely to enhance dopamine (DA) levels, which in turn are positively associated with divergent thinking (DT); is a possibility that is tested in the present study. Furthermore, the impact of cocaine is tested on convergent thinking (CT), another aspect of creative thinking, which has been reported to be impaired with high DA levels. It was hypothesized that cocaine would enhance DT and impair CT. A placebo-controlled within-subjects study including 24 healthy poly-drug users was set up to test the influence of oral cocaine (300 mg) on creativity. Verbal CT was assessed with the Remote Associates Task (RAT); figural CT was assessed with the Picture Concepts Task (PCT) and the Tower of London (TOL). Verbal DT was assessed with the Alternative Uses Task (AUT); figural DT was assessed with the Pattern/Line Meanings Task (PLMT). Findings showed that, compared to placebo, cocaine impaired figural CT (TOL) and flexible DT of verbal stimuli (AUT), while it enhanced figural DT (PLMT). No significant effects of cocaine were observed regarding the PCT and RAT. It was demonstrated that cocaine-induced effects on creativity in poly-drug users are stimulus-dependent. Cocaine enhanced performance on figural DT but impaired performance on verbal (flexible) DT. Cocaine impaired CT on only one figural task and but not on the other tasks. As creativity is an important aspect in cognitive therapies, it is important to further understand these discrepancies in creativity task performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-824
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number7
Early online date27 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Cocaine
  • Convergent thinking
  • Divergent creative thinking
  • MOOD
  • Positive mood
  • TASK

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