The human brain needs to suppress obvious ideas in order to reach the most creative ones, according to scientists. These obvious associations are present in both convergent thinking (finding an ‘out-of-the-box’ solution) and also in divergent thinking (when individuals have to come up with several creative ideas).
The human brain needs to suppress obvious ideas in order to reach the most creative ones, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London and Goldsmiths, University of London.
A new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that brainwaves play a crucial role in inhibiting habitual thinking modes to pave the way to access more remote ideas.
The researchers found that these brainwaves, or alpha oscillations in the right temporal area of the brain, increase when individuals need to suppress misleading associations in creative tasks.
Higher levels of alpha brainwaves enable people to come up with ideas which are further away from the obvious or well-known uses.
The researchers show that stimulating the right temporal part of the brain in the alpha frequency increases the capability of inhibiting obvious links in both types of creative thinking.
This was demonstrated by applying an electrical current to the brain through a non-invasive technique called transcranial alternating current brain stimulation (tACS) which causes minimal to no side effects or sensations.
The findings have implications for how we understand creativity and opens up potential ways of affecting the creative process including by using tACS.
“In order to understand the processes underlying the production of novel and adequate ideas, we need to break down its constituent processes, dissecting creativity as much as possible at first, and then analysing them in context, before putting them back together to understand the process as a whole.”
The researchers demonstrated the neural mechanism responsible for creativity by monitoring the brain’s electrical activity through an electroencephalogram (EEG) which picks up electrical signals through small sensors placed on the head. Using tACS also enabled them to probe the waves’ causal role.
Previous studies show that some people are more creative than others because they are able to avoid strong associations in order to reach more remote ones and this study demonstrates that the alpha brainwaves are crucially involved in this process.
Goldsmiths, University of London’s Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya, a co-author of this study, added: “Two roads diverged in a wood, I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference,’ wrote Robert Frost in his famous poem.”
Source:-Queen Mary University of London