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(graphic by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

Finally, a convenient cure for your writer’s block: a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) reveals that it is possible to enhance creativity by zapping certain regions of the brain with electrical currents. (Look out for brain-zappers at your local, freelancer-packed café.)

The findings, which were released in the journal Cortex, make use of so-called “alpha oscillations.” “Alpha oscillations” are the sort of brain waves we emit when we close our eyes, and they have long been tentatively linked with innovative thinking, Discover reports.

But researchers at UNC wanted to determine whether it is possible to stimulate this brand of neural activity from the outside — so they applied the relevant electrical currents to the brains of 20 volunteers. The test subjects were then asked to complete The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, an index used by psychologists to measure creativity. Subjects displayed a 7.4% increase in creative thinking when their brains were stimulated.

This study comes at a time when “transcranial direct-current stimulation,” a procedure that uses electrical currents to produce desirable sorts of neural activity, has developed something of a following, as Elif Batuman recently reported in The New Yorker. The technique has been used to treat depression, chronic pain, and schizophrenia, among other ailments, although it is still controversial.

It’s not clear whether artificially induced creative impulses qualify as “inspiration” — there’s something a bit off about relying on electrical stimulation in order to come up with original ideas — but it’s certainly a welcome expedient. If only we could learn to self-stimulate without the aid of transcranial technology.

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Becca Rothfeld

Becca Rothfeld is assistant literary editor of The New Republic and a contributor to The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Daily News’ literary blog, The Baffler, and...

2 replies on “Study Reveals Electrically Stimulating the Brain Can Enhance Creativity”

  1. I take it as an enhancer of existing creativity, not an inducer where there was none; like LSD maybe with less side effects I hope.
    Build it and they will come : )
    Another Field of Dreams in a long line-up.

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