Zapping your brain via "safe" electrical stimulation boosts creativity - Don't try this at home

04/15/2016 - 04:06

Safe levels of electrical stimulation can enhance your capacity to think more creatively, according to a new study by Georgetown researchers.

Georgetown psychology professor Adam Green and Dr. Peter Turkeltaub of Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network, and a team of colleagues published the study yesterday online in Cerebral Cortex.

The team used 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.


Ref: Thinking Cap Plus Thinking Zap: tDCS of Frontopolar Cortex Improves Creative Analogical Reasoning and Facilitates Conscious Augmentation of State Creativity in Verb Generation. Cerebral Cortex (13 April 2016) | DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhw080


Recent neuroimaging evidence indicates neural mechanisms that support transient improvements in creative performance (augmented state creativity) in response to cognitive interventions (creativity cueing). Separately, neural interventions via tDCS show encouraging potential for modulating neuronal function during creative performance. If cognitive and neural interventions are separately effective, can they be combined? Does state creativity augmentation represent “real” creativity, or do interventions simply yield divergence by diminishing meaningfulness / appropriateness? Can augmenting state creativity bolster creative reasoning that supports innovation, particularly analogical reasoning? To address these questions, we combined tDCS with creativity cueing. Testing a regionally specific hypothesis from neuroimaging, high-definition tDCS-targeted frontopolar cortex activity recently shown to predict state creativity augmentation. In a novel analogy finding task, participants under tDCS formulated substantially more creative analogical connections in a large matrix search space (creativity indexed via latent semantic analysis). Critically, increased analogical creativity was not due to diminished accuracy in discerning valid analogies, indicating “real” creativity rather than inappropriate divergence. A simpler relational creativity paradigm (modified verb generation) revealed a tDCS-by-cue interaction; tDCS further enhanced creativity cue-related increases in semantic distance. Findings point to the potential of noninvasive neuromodulation to enhance creative relational cognition, including augmentation of the deliberate effort to formulate connections between distant concepts.