Researchers at the University of North Carolina explain that alpha waves, which were considered the equivalent of your car gear in neutral, actually represent the time in which the brain is free of executive functions (planning, executing, focusing) and can make connections of old ideas into new ones, the basis for creativity.

They believe that stimulating the brain with such alpha waves has two benefits to creativity. One is that it disconnects the brain from the environment, allowing it to make idea combinations as it doesn't have to focus on external events. The second is that it can enhance phase synchronization between the frontal areas of the brain.

In the study, published in 2015, 20 participants were subjected to 5 minutes of 10 Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (10  Hz-tACS) of the frontal cortex. In the next 25 minutes, the participants' creative performance were tested under the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), and showed an improvement of 7.4% in their creativity. Stimulating the brains of a second group with a 40 Hz-tACS showed no improvement. It appeared that the stimulation will therefore work only in the Alpha range (8-12 Hz).

No need to worry--the stimulation was applied to the brain through external electrodes, through a completely non-invasive procedure.

The primary goal of this research was not creativity-related, but rather to develop novel treatments for psychiatric illnesses, through relaxing the brain with alpha waves. The effect on creativity was only a secondary goal.

While finding the interesting impact that Alpha wave stimulation had on creativity, the researchers pointed out that they did not examine whether the effect persisted after the intervention. The effect might still be temporary until further studies show otherwise.

Another study, this time by the Georgetown University Medical Center claims that the use of direct current (tDCS) can also affect creativity, as well as other brain functions. 

The exciting news? For anywhere from $30 to $200 you can find a variety of commercially available products that provide external electrical stimulation for weight loss and muscle pain, that exercise muscles in a non-invasive way. Will we soon see products that will make us more creative on Walmart shelves?

 

Published on: May 10, 2016
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