Electrical brain stimulation of the brain’s left angular gyrus eases up barriers that inhibit creativity
Using transcranial direct current stimulation of the brain allows a glimpse into the brain mechanisms that facilitate or inhibit creativity. Creativity is defined as the ability to produce responses that are innovative (rare, original, unpredictable) on the one hand, and valuable (appropriate, useful in the context of the task) on the other. Metaphors are the products of thinking which can be used to measure creativity. Prof. Nira Mishal, of Bar-Ilan University’s School of Education and Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, and her colleague, Dr. Adi Lifshitz Ben-Basat, of Ariel University, measured metaphorical generation in order to determine the effect of non-invasive electrical stimulation on the region of the brain involved in creativity.
Creative thinking involves different networks in the brain: the default mode network and the frontoparietal control network. An area in the frontoparietal control network, called the left angular gyrus, is associated with complex cognitive tasks, but is also found to be "turned off" when performing tasks that require a great deal of creativity. The study examined the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation, tDCS, of the left angular gyrus on performing creative metaphor generation tasks.
Participants in the study were asked to explain concepts in the most original way they could. In doing so, the researchers compared the effects of anodal tDCS (using a positive electrode) to cathodal tDCS (using a negative electrode).
Compared with the sham control group, the group that received cathodal stimulation showed a significant increase in novel metaphor generation, while the group receiving anodal stimulation showed an increase in conventional metaphor generation. The increase in the production of creative metaphors following the cathodic (rather than anodic) stimulus may be related to the suppression of the control network through the left angular gyrus, allowing associations to be bolder and thus contributing to enhanced creative thinking.
The study provides a glimpse into the neural basis of creative thinking.