Your brain-state predicts your creativity

Today I crossed paths with this interesting paper about how we can find differences in creativity based on the resting-state of alpha-oscillations:

Neuropsychologia. 2020 May;142:107456.
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2020.107456. Epub 2020 Apr 10.

The Dynamics of Resting-State Alpha Oscillations Predict Individual Differences in Creativity

Naomi Prent, Dirk J A Smit

Abstract. The neuronal mechanisms underlying creativity are poorly understood. Arguably, the brain’s ability to switch states would contribute to achieving novel ideas, and thus to creativity. Faster brain-state switching is reflected in the temporal dynamics of functional brain activity. Stronger autocorrelations in brain activity measures can make a brain stay in a certain state for longer periods, whereas low temporal autocorrelations reflect faster state switching. We established the brain’s inherent tendency to switch or stay in a resting, no-task condition using 128 channel electroencephalography (EEG). We assessed temporal autocorrelations of the amplitude modulation of the dominant alpha oscillations (8-13 Hz). Creativity was measured by a self-rating, an examiner-rating and the alternative uses task in 40 healthy young adults, which was scored on dimensions of verbal fluency, originality, elaboration, usefulness, and flexibility. For each dimension, the total number of subject-reported alternative uses that matched the criterion was noted (the quantity measure), as well as the proportion of uses that matched the dimensional criterion. A principal components analysis confirmed the two-component structure of quantity and quality. Partial correlation analysis was used controlling for gender and age, and a cluster permutation test was performed to correct for multiple testing. A significant cluster over right central/temporal brain areas was found with a negative correlation between creativity and temporal autocorrelations were observed (p=0.028). To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that individual variation in the dynamically changing activity in the brain may offer a neuronal explanation for individual variation in creative ideation.

According to the authors, it seems that there is a correlation between faster brain-state switching and creative ideation. In other words, the more you are able to change your brain-state trough different frequencies (going from beta to theta, and going back) the more creative you will be.

This has real implications in our daily life. If we live in a stressful mode (brain-state) and we are focused on our main problems without resting, this will lead us to have a more prominent beta-band activity. In this state, it will be very difficult for us to be creative in any areas of our lives. However, if we are able to take a rest and even meditate, our brain-state will slow down and switch to alpha-band activity (and even theta-band!), and we will enter in a more relaxed mode. In this way, we will have changed our brain-state and might lead to a more creative mode. Therefore, the key point here is that the more we are able to switch our brain-state, the more prone we will be to have more creative ideas.


Feature image from Pexels – C0 license.

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