Shocking discovery shows that zapping your brain can boost creativity

zap brain electricity creative 5937bfa373a24
Dr Luft/QMUL
Need to make someone more creative? How about zapping their brain with an electric current? No, it’s not the worst writers’ room scenario ever, but an experiment into brain stimulation carried out by researchers at the U.K.’s Queen Mary University of London and Goldsmiths University of London.

In a study involving 60 participants, a weak electrical current was applied to the scalp using electrodes. The currents were sufficiently low that they did not cause any harm or unpleasant sensations. When the transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) technique was used to suppress a key part of the frontal brain called the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, participants were shown to get better at carrying out “creative” tasks involving out-of-the-box thinking. However, since the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain heavily involved in much of our reasoning processes, they got worse at solving problems in which many items needed to be held in mind at once.

“We suggest that inhibiting this region could help thinking out of the box because this is the very same region which implements well-learned solutions to problems,” Dr. Caroline Di Bernardi Luft, from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, told Digital Trends. “Most creative problems require people to break free of deeply rooted assumptions to be able to come up with something new, and this is precisely the process that we believe to have affected using cathodal tDCS.”

According to Luft, there are two surprising aspects of the work. The first is that it demonstrates that creativity is a cognitive skill, which can be broken down to smaller processes that can be specifically targeted. That suggests there is not one specific brain area that’s responsible for creativity, but rather that understanding it requires a broader understanding of the brain as a whole.

“The second surprising factor,” Luft added, “was that we were able to replicate the findings of a study with patients with prefrontal cortex lesions. These patients were more likely to solve hard ‘think out of the box’ problems, which was remarkable evidence that this brain region might hinder creative problem solving. By using tDCS, we were able to temporarily mimic such effect, without causing any lasting changes in brain activity.”

Her one word of caution? Despite the number of companies selling brain stimulation machines for home use, don’t try this yourself if you happen to need a jolt of creativity. “The effects might actually be the opposite of what the person using it is expecting as the stimulation can benefit certain cognitive functions and impair others at the same time,” she said.

The work is described in the journal Scientific Reports.

Health & Fitness

JLABS injects some tech into the medical industry

Innovating health care is expensive, risky, and complicated legally. One company is trying to remove these barriers with clever and altruistic approach.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.