Creativity is the ability to generate ideas that are novel and often useful. There has been an explosion in cognitive neuroscience research on creativity that has elicited important findings toward our understanding of the neural bases of creative thinking and noninvasive brain stimulation interventions to boost creativity. A recent trial from scientists at Drexel University, University of Kansas Medical Center, University of Arizona, and the University of Connecticut provides some of the strongest and most compelling evidence to date that transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) can enhance creativity. The study was called “Augmenting ideational fluency in a creativity task across multiple transcranial direct current stimulation montages.”
The study published in Nature Scientific Reports abstract summarizes: “Neuroimaging and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) research have revealed that generating novel ideas is associated with both reductions and increases in prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity, and engagement of posterior occipital cortex, among other regions. However, there is substantial variability in the robustness of these tDCS‐induced effects due to heterogeneous sample sizes, different creativity measures, and methodological diversity in the application of tDCS across laboratories. To address these shortcomings, we used twelve different montages within a standardized tDCS protocol to investigate how altering activity in the frontotemporal and occipital cortex impacts creative thinking. Across four experiments, 246 participants generated either the common or an uncommon use for 60 object pictures while undergoing tDCS. Participants also completed a control short-term memory task. We applied active tDCS for 20 min at 1.5 mA through two 5 cm × 5 cm electrodes over left or right ventrolateral prefrontal (areas F7, F8) or occipital (areas O1, O2) cortex, concurrent bilateral stimulation of these regions across polarities, or sham stimulation. Cathodal stimulation of the left, but not right, ventrolateral PFC improved fluency in creative idea generation, but had no effects on originality, as approximated by measures of semantic distance. No effects were obtained for the control tasks. Concurrent bilateral stimulation of the ventrolateral PFC regardless of polarity direction, and excitatory stimulation of occipital cortex did not alter task performance. Highlighting the importance of cross-experimental methodological consistency, these results extend our past findings and contribute to our understanding of the role of left PFC in creative thinking.”
This was a large and well-controlled study that proved the effects of tDCS were evident and specific. The study builds on an ever-growing body of evidence that tDCS can boost creativity including from the University of Pennsylvania.
Another key study was published in Cerebral Cortex called “Thinking Cap Plus Thinking Zap: tDCS of Frontopolar Cortex Improves Creative Analogical Reasoning and Facilitates Conscious Augmentation of State Creativity in Verb Generation”