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Creativity is reached thanks to alpha brain waves

February 13, 2019

Thanks to the alpha brain waves, we are able to think outside the box. In other words, to be creative, imagining solutions far from the obvious. And it is precisely the obvious ideas that the brain automatically suppresses when the human brain works with creativity. This is revealed by research by Queen Mary University in London and Goldsmiths University of London, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Research shows that brain waves play a crucial role in inhibiting habitual thinking patterns to pave the way for access to more remote ideas. We talked about it with Dr. Katia Rastelli, psychotherapist at Humanitas.


The research

Higher levels of alpha brain waves allow people to elaborate ideas that are more distant from obvious or known uses. The team of scholars found that these brain waves, which are alpha oscillations in the right temporal area of the brain, increase when you need to suppress misleading associations for creative tasks. Stimulating the right temporal part of the brain in alpha frequency increases the ability to inhibit obvious connections in both types of creative thinking, converging (i.e. finding a “ready to use” solution) and divergent (i.e. when different creative ideas have to be invented).


How does creativity work?

The researchers asked themselves how creativity works and demonstrated the neural mechanism responsible for this mode of human thought and attitude, monitoring the electrical activity of the brain through an electroencephalogram. The use of a non-invasive technique called alternating transcranial brain stimulation has also allowed them to probe the role of waves. The experiments conducted have examined how the brain faces a number of creative tasks such as finding words that connect with each other. For example, every time we look for concepts associated with a word, we start from stronger associations to move to more remote ones.

“Taking a less travelled path – points out Joydeep Bhattacharya, co-author of the study – is necessary to think creatively, and our findings provide some evidence on how this is done in the brain”.

The Psychotherapist’s Word

“When we refer to creative people we are actually referring to people who have a great ability to get involved, open to experience, not rigid. They are individuals who are able to assert their individuality without giving in to conformism.

Creative people are therefore endowed with great resources, both of reasoning and of emotion. Let us also remember that artistic activity is only one of the many ways in which it can manifest itself: yes, there are hobbies, but there is also a desire to explore new ways of being and doing, with sport, travel and culture, your own way of dressing or combing or even to change the arrangement of furniture in the home or embellish it, in general through everything that can be useful to express themselves through experimentation.

Creativity is also an innate “function” of the human being. If the environment is sufficiently serene, the child already does so autonomously through play, with which he begins to make himself known and to talk about himself. Like any other skill, creativity can and must be developed, starting from childhood, for example by giving to children. The possibility and the stimuli to be curious about the world around them. Exploring space, through new ways, always leads to discoveries that concern oneself, others and the environment and the role of the adult must be to facilitate the work: it protects from dangers but at the same time helps to give meaning to new experiences.

But let’s not forget the importance, even as adults, of leaving our “comfort zone”, the constraints and rules every now and then, to leave room for imagination, the pleasure of playing and the search for new stimuli, protective factors even in old age”.


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