Our brains work on inductance, that is why electricity can take us to a very weird place. But safe levels of electrical stimulation can enhance your capacity to think more creatively, according to a new paper in Cerebral Cortex.
If that sounds disturbingly like probiotics, but with far more risk of things going wrong, you are not wrong. Yet the scholars writing about Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to stimulate an area of the brain known to be associated with creativity in combination with giving test subjects verbal cues to think more creatively says they are onto something. Use of tDCS targeting frontopolar cortex in two creativity tasks allowed the test subjects to form more creative analogical connections between sets of words, and to generate more creative associations between words.
"This work is a departure from traditional research that treats creativity as a static trait," explains Georgetown psychology professor Adam Green. "Instead, we focused on creativity as a dynamic state that can change quickly within an individual when they 'put their thinking cap on.'
"We found that the individuals who were most able to ramp up activity in a region at the far front of the brain, called the frontopolar cortex, were the ones most able to ramp up the creativity of the connections they formed. Since ramping up activity in frontopolar cortex appeared to support a natural boost in creative thinking, we predicted that stimulating activity in this brain region would facilitate this boost, allowing people to reach higher creative heights."
So a "zap" of electrical stimulation can enhance the brain's natural thinking cap boost in creativity? They claim yes. The researchers wrote that their results provide "novel evidence" that tDCS enhances the "conscious augmentation of creativity elicited by cognitive intervention, and extends the known boundaries of tDCS enhancement to analogical reasoning, a form of creative intelligence that is a powerful engine for innovation."
However, much remains unknown about exactly how tDCS affects brain function, and early reports of tDCS effects need further replication before researchers can further gauge how substantive these effects are.
"Any effort to use electric current for stimulating the brain outside the laboratory or clinic could be dangerous and should be strongly discouraged," Green cautioned.