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Our brains suppress the obvious to help us think creatively

According to new evidence found by researchers at Queen Mary University of London and Goldsmiths, University of London, brainwaves suppress obvious ideas and habitual thinking in order to help us think creatively.

These brainwaves, called alpha oscillations, increase within the right temporal area of the brain when individuals need to think outside the box during creative exercises.

In their study, published December 10th in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, the researchers used transcranial alternating current brain stimulation (tACS) to show the connection between stimulating the right temporal area in the brain, therefore enhancing the alpha frequency, and the ability to suppress obvious ideas during convergent thinking (finding a single creative solution) and divergent thinking (brainstorming multiple creative ideas).

They ran experiments to see how exactly the alpha brainwaves function when tasked with a creative situation like finding words linked to a starter concept.

“If we need to generate alternative uses of a glass, first we must inhibit our past experience which leads us to think of a glass as a container. Our study’s novelty is to demonstrate that right temporal alpha oscillations is a key neural mechanism for overriding these obvious associations,” said lead researcher Dr. Caroline Di Bernardi Luft, from Queen Mary University of London.

“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,” said co-author, Goldsmiths, University of London’s Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya. “Taking a less travelled route is needed for thinking creatively, and our findings provide some evidence on how this is done in our brain.”

With this new evidence, the researchers hope to continue to piece together how the brain works creatively and if it can be stimulated to produce creative thoughts whenever necessary.

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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