Blasting Your Brain With Electricity Improves Creativity, Study Finds

Electricity won’t only power your electronics; it’ll power your mind, too.

To help someone get more creative, simply zap their brains with weak electrical currents.  Scientists have confirmed that jolts of electricity directly to the brain will improve a person’s creativity.

Neuroscientists implemented a technique called ‘transcranial direct current stimulation’ (tDCS).  Researchers from the UK’s Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Goldsmiths University of London applied a weak electrical current to various points on volunteers’ scalps.  Depending on the current flow’s direction, the DLPFC (left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) would be activated or suppressed.

The study involved 60 volunteers.  Scientists ensured that the weak electrical current wouldn’t cause harm or unpleasant sensations.

Volunteers would have to solve a series of puzzles aimed at testing their creative thinking skills.  Neuroscientists found that by temporarily suppressing a key part of the frontal brain, people would become more creative.  Scientists found that these participants could solve lateral thinking puzzles better.

Participants whose DLPFC was suppressed could also better ‘think outside the box.’  Speaking on why weak a electrical current to the brain helps, QMUL’s Dr. Caroline Di Bernardi Luft explained,

“We solve problems by applying rules we learn from experience… the DLPFC plays a key role in automating this process. 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.”

During the study, researchers found that volunteers became worse at solving problems with a “higher working memory demand.”  As they tried different solutions to solve the problem, volunteers had to keep track of previous mental operations.  So they couldn’t get creative and “think outside the box.”  But suppressing DLPFC could only briefly help break mental assumptions, however.

Accordingly, the results will help scientists focus on potential applications of this technique.

Companies can’t start selling tDCS machines just yet to provide electrical brain stimulation.  Underscoring the benefits of electrical brain stimulation, Dr. Luft warned people not to misinterpret the results.

These results are important because they show the potential of improving mental functions relevant for creativity by non-invasive brain stimulation methods.  [However,] 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.”

Image by abhisawa (CC by 2.0)

2 Responses

  1. Kris

    WhT A silly article. Hope you’re friends in sogtradr at happy about it.