一项新的研究，发表在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.
These obvious associations are present in both convergent thinking and also in divergent thinking (when individuals have to come up with several creative ideas).
Higher levels of alpha brainwaves enable people to come up with ideas which are further away from the obvious or well-known uses.
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.
Lead researcher Dr Caroline Di Bernardi Luft, from Queen Mary University of London, said: "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.
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.
The experiments they conducted looked at how the brain tackles a series of creative tasks such as finding words that link to one another. For example, every time we search for concepts associated with a word we start from stronger associations to move progressively towards weaker or more remote ones (e.g. cat > dog > animal > pet > human > people > family).
先前的研究表明,一些人更多的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.
"Taking a less travelled route is needed for thinking creatively, and our findings provide some evidence on how this is done in our brain."
The research was performed in the framework of a European Commission supported project, CREAM (Creativity enhancement through advanced brain mapping and stimulation).