Here's How Electrical Brain Stimulation Can Make You More Creative

Here's How Electrical Brain Stimulation Can Make You More Creative
Researchers passed a weak constant electrical current through saline-soaked electrodes positioned over target regions in the scalp. image is adapted from the QMUL news release.

Scientists have discovered how to boost creativity through brain stimulation, as mentioned by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Goldsmiths University of London.

They managed this by briefly suppressing a key part of the frontal brain known as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), that is participating in the majority of our thinking and reasoning.

The results, which were published in the journal Scientific Reports, prove that participants who took the intervention presented an improved competence to ‘think outside the box’ and be more creative.

“We solve problems by applying rules we learn from experience, and the DLPFC plays a key role in automating this process,” said Dr Caroline Di Bernardi Luft, first author from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, who conducted the research while previously working at Goldsmiths University of London, with Dr Michael Banissy and Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya.

“It works fine most of the time, but fails spectacularly when we encounter new problems which require a new style of thinking – our past experience can indeed block our creativity. To break this mental fixation, we need to loosen up our learned rules,” she added.

The researchers used a technique known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which included passing a weak constant electrical current through saline-soaked electrodes positioned over the scalp to modulate the excitability of the DLPFC. Based on the direction of the current flow, DLPFC was temporarily suppressed or activated. The very low currents applied ensured that it would not lead to any unpleasant sensation.

60 participants were tested on their creative problem-solving ability before and after receiving one of the following interventions: DLPFC being suppressed, DLPFC being activated, and DLPFC being unstimulated. The participants solved “matchstick problems”, some of which are difficult because to solve these problems, participants need to relax the already known rules of arithmetic and algebra.

The participants whose DLPFC was temporarily suppressed by the electrical stimulation were more likely to solve difficult problems than other participants whose DLPFC was activated or not stimulated. This shows that suppressing DLPFC briefly can contribute in breaking mental assumptions known from experience and thinking in more creative ways.

But the researchers also found that these participants were worse at solving problems with a higher working memory requirement (where they need to keep in mind many items at once). These problems demand that the participants try various moves until they find the solution, which means they have to remember all their mental operations.

“These results are important because they show the potential of improving mental functions relevant for creativity by non-invasive brain stimulation methods,” noted Dr. Luft.

“However, our results also suggest that potential applications of this technique will have to consider the target cognitive effects in more detail rather than just assuming tDCS can improve cognition as claimed by some companies which are starting to sell tDCS machines for home users,” she added.

“I would say that we are not yet in a position to wear an electrical hat and start stimulating our brain hoping for a blanket cognitive gain.”

Sources: Queen Mary University of London,
Here's How Electrical Brain Stimulation Can Make You More Creative Here's How Electrical Brain Stimulation Can Make You More Creative Reviewed by Katerina Papakyriakopoulou on 8:44 PM Rating: 5


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