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Switching on Creativity

The extraordinary abilities of savants have inspired a brain-stimulation technique for enabling creative insight

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A great idea comes all of a sudden. In the depths of the mind, networks of brain cells perform a sublime symphony, and a twinkle of insight pops into consciousness. Unexpected as they are, these lightbulb moments seem impossible to orchestrate. Recent studies suggest otherwise. By freeing the mind of some of its inhibitions, we might improve creative problem solving.

The human brain constantly filters thoughts and feelings. Only a small fraction of the stimuli impressed on us by our environment ascends to the level of conscious awareness. Prior learning enforces mental shortcuts that determine which sensations are deemed worthy of our attention. Our laboratory is investigating whether we can weaken these biases and boost openness to new ideas by temporarily diminishing the neural activity in specific brain areas.

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